Woodridge, a suburb of Logan, Queensland made the headlines in 2013 when a so-called ‘race riot’ broke out on its residential streets. For many Australians, this is was their first introduction to the suburb.
The Logan Project charts the journey of aspiring singers and musicians as they work together to create a new, positive narrative for their city, with the community determined to change its reputation as a place of racial tensions and high unemployment.
A closer look at the suburb at the centre of this narrative reveals more of the human story behind the statistics.
Nearly half of all people in Woodridge are first generation Australians
Benny Behzadpour, a community development worker with Multilink Migrant and Cultural Services, said many people living in Woodridge are refugees and newly arrived migrants. “They are living here because [cost of living] is a reasonable price,” she said.
Behzadpour, an employee of Multilink for more than 26 years, has a personal understanding of how difficult it can be to settle in Australia. She arrived in Australia in 1977 from Iran at 19 years old. She was as a qualified nurse in Iran but these qualifications weren’t recognised in Australia. She also struggled to understand English at the time.
Over the years, Behzadpour has worked with generations of Woodridge residents, as well as newly arrived migrants. “Multilink helps with all kinds of things: emergency relief and bills, we cook every week for refugees, and provide guest lecture information sessions on Australian law on topics like drink driving and domestic violence," Behzadpour said.
Why are most people living in Woodridge under 4 years old?
“Most of my clients come from Iran or Afghanistan,” Benny Behzadpour said. “The culture in Afghanistan and Iran is to have lots of children. Some people have six, seven - even nine - children. This is why I believe this skews the age demographic in Woodridge.”
Almost a quarter of all families are single parents with children under 15
“A lot of single mums in Woodridge don't get married again for cultural reasons, so there are a lot of single mothers,” Benny Behzadpour said.
Behzadpour explained that many of her clients are single mothers who have come to Australia with their children as refugees from countries like Afghanistan, Africa, and Iran.
“[These single mothers] come to Australia because, during war, their husbands have defected or been killed, so the mother is now single and has had to bring the children to Australia. Many then come to Woodridge because it's relatively inexpensive and there are lots of schools and a TAFE in the area. The facilities are good for children and these families as the children grow up with an education."
Most households earn under $800 a week
The most common household income bracket in Australia is between $1500-2000 a week. In Woodridge, it's $600-800 a week.
Even though Woodridge is seen as a relatively affordable place to live, Benny Behzadpour said there are not many job opportunities in the area.
“People earn $600-800 a week because there aren't many jobs for low skills in the Woodridge area. Many people here don’t go to university because they can’t afford it and so they work in low skill jobs like cleaning, gardening, factory, or supermarket work. But there aren't many of these jobs in the area. Many people are barely able to pay rent. $600-800 a week is just not enough," Behzadpour said.
Almost 45 per cent of people are not in the labour force
“Unemployment is a problem because there are people here with low skills, but also, like me, some migrants have qualifications from overseas that don’t translate in Australia,” Benny Behzadpour said.
“Most of my clients are very qualified - some are doctors, for example - but unfortunately these qualifications are often not recognised in Australia, and on top of that, sitting the exam [in English] to gain the qualification here poses a language barrier.”
Among it’s other services, Multilink also provides free English classes where those seeking to gain their Australian qualifications can get assistance.
“I’m so proud of my organisation,” Behzadpour remarks, smiling. “So proud to be able to help refugees in my work.”
Source: ABS 2011 Census. Find out more using the SBS Census Explorer.
Watch The Logan Project on On Demand.