Broadmeadows, once a symbol of hope, deserves better:

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Sunday Age | By Frank McGuire

20th February 2011

As a newly elected MP, I will continue to work hard for Broady, writes FRANK McGUIRE.

When the last streamer snapped and the ship slipped the mother country’s embrace, Bridie and Eddie McGuire snr began a journey for the generations. Like wave upon wave of postwar migrants, my parents dreamed of a better future for our family and had the courage to cross the world to pursue it.

When we arrived in Broadmeadows in 1958, it was a raw fringe at the end of the line. The systemic failure of governments to deliver the necessary infrastructure to build a community meant there were few pavements between our home and the railway station. Mum left her muddy shoes on the platform, standing alongside those of other job seekers. Dad joked there were so many Scottish thistles he could never be homesick.

Dad never failed to remind the family that Broadmeadows was “a dream come true”. The opportunity for regular work, a home of one’s own, the sun on your back. Mum called our concrete Housing Commission home the answer to a prayer — even though it had to be hosed down in summer before you could sleep.

Growing up in Ireland, Bridie Brennan was taken out of school at 14 to become a farmer and surrogate mother to her younger siblings. She taught my sisters Evelyn and Brigette, my brother Eddie and I to read before we went to school. My parents are intelligent people denied formal education. My father dug ditches, my mother worked on assembly lines to give us a better education, the key to opportunity.

This led to me winning an academic scholarship to the Christian Brothers College in East St Kilda. Crossing the Yarra was a revelation. The Royal Botanic Gardens rolled gently down to the vice-regal residence where the fluttering flag signalled the governor was home. A cadetship to the afternoon Herald trumped a place at the Australian National University and ultimately led to me becoming a member of Parliament.

In his retirement interview with me three decades ago, Victoria’s leading mandarin of the time, Major- General Ken Green, said the greatest failure in a generation of government was “Broadmeadows”. Fifty years after it was established, it still didn’t have a public library. Marginalised and isolated, the roaring boys burned the last train to Broady. The state’s response was to build a bigger police station and grander court house. It addressed symptoms, not causes.

Twelve years ago, when Jeff Kennett ruled Victoria, Hume City, which incorporated Broadmeadows, asked me to be the founding chairman of its Safe City Taskforce. My response was to pioneer the Global Learning Village. This involved partnerships of the three tiers of government, business, the community, the philanthropic sector and the academy to deliver the library, centres for lifelong learning, maternal and childcare, and a new town centre.

The Global Learning Village attracted Microsoft, Intel and Cisco to form an Ideas Lab to use new technology for teaching and learning. There are only two in the world: London and Broady.
Doorknocking in Broadmeadows during this byelection has revealed that only the accents, not the aspirations, have changed.

Broadmeadows is a symbol of hope. It symbolises that diminishing Australian value — a fair go for all. It has reached a crossroad. Labor has delivered the infrastructure denied for half a century — library, lifelong learning centre, the regeneration of schools, a new model for private-public social housing and the extension of the railway line. But the muscle jobs in Broadmeadows that helped underwrite Victoria’s prosperity are disappearing, largely due to globalisation. The unemployment rate is 15 per cent, three times the national average.

Now is the time for a co-ordinated strategy for innovation and the use of technology to develop lifelong learning, training and smarter jobs. We need to tailor the emerging education technology for those emerging from disadvantage and consider a Broadmeadows “multiversity”, co-ordinated through the three tiers of government, and connecting universities, TAFE and the local community. The Liberal Party conceded Broadmeadows in this byelection.

It must not abandon it again or incite the chain reaction of race, taxes and welfare to divide the community.

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