Executive Producer's Statement

Having trained as a social worker, I had a number of jobs over the years working with young people in crisis. This included running the Community Youth Support Scheme in Hornsby and the East Sydney High School in William Street, East Sydney. East Sydney High was a small school for years 7 to 10 and the measurable success was that students turned up and stayed for the school day. That some students managed to earn a School Certificate while dealing with health problems or chaotic and violent living circumstances was cause for great celebration.

Years later, as a filmmaker, I have had the privilege of working on The Oasis. To relive the difficulties of young people who are alone, without stable family support or living situations has been painfully familiar. To see young people struggling to survive is distressing, sad and angering that nothing has changed in 20 years, except perhaps the drugs. There is still a lack of emergency accommodation and shortage of places in affordable drug rehabilitation centres. Prison is still used as the last resort to control or punish, and governments and communities are still bewildered about how to stem this systemic and often ignored problem. Being involved with this film has reminded me that being homeless can happen to anyone and now when I see a homeless person I am again conscious of the myriad of reasons that can cause a person's homelessness.

Watching the indefatigable Paul and Robbin Moulds interact with the people who seek help from Oasis has been humbling and edifying. Their consistent non-judgmental and gentle care for anyone that arrives on their doorstep provides such a wonderful role model for everyone. And above all a sense of hope. Learning about the Salvation Army and the myriad of services it provides to the community has been a revelation and has changed my previous narrow perception of the Salvos.

It has been a joy working with the tireless team on this film: the talented Sascha Ettinger Epstein who in her own unique way formed bonds with the people in the film making it 'safe' for them to participate; the energetic and gifted editor, Sally Fryer, who calmly made sense of the 100s of hours of footage, and with Mary Macrae who deftly organised us all. Stepping into the edit 'womb' every so often was always exciting, always different and I never failed to cry. The edit room was a free forum where I could say things, step between the opposing opinions and help unravel the knots. Ultimately we would find a path through the stories. Often it was a reassuring ear that was needed.

It has been a fantastic learning experience to work with Ian Darling, the producer (and co-director), who has instigated the extensive outreach program to accompany the film and putting youth homelessness on this country's agenda. This has incorporated the private commissioning of a National Youth Homelessness Report to be launched in tandem with the broadcast of the documentary during National Youth Week. In addition there is an extensive educational website that will be ongoing for many years as well as DVD outreach to all secondary schools, including a teachers' study guide.

As Executive Producer I instigated the ABC's involvement in The Oasis package. During post-production, the ABC was invited to partner with us to help create a momentum around the issue of youth homelessness. Recognising this opportunity to participate in leadership on this issue, the ABC enthusiastically embraced the scope and potential of this production. The ABC agreed to our request of a prime-time screening (8.30pm) for a 75 minute film during National Youth Week. To extend the evening, the ABC took up our suggestion of an on-air panel discussion after the film's transmission and then offered to host an online video forum. Dasha Ross came on as the ABC Executive Producer and gave us pertinent and valuable editorial advice, steering us towards the finish line. It was a pleasure to be working with Dasha again, who became a strong advocate for the film within the ABC. The ABC will make a major contribution to the national publicity muscle of this initiative and will assist us in reaching all levels of government and the community.

It is the first time in over 20 years of being a filmmaker that I have been involved in a production with such an extensive marketing program and I cannot wait for the roll-out of the critical package. Our aim is that The Oasis film and report will begin to combat stereotypes which set the emotional and political stage for policies that result in chronic misunderstanding. Hopefully the film is just the beginning.

Susan MacKinnon

March 2008