In the spotlight… Homelessness – behind the scenes

SARC's Catherine Robinson, pictured on the set of Filthy Rich and Homeless

Anglicare’s Social Action Research Centre (SARC) team member Dr Catherine Robinson contributed to SBS documentary series Filthy Rich and Homeless as the program’s in-house consultant.

Catherine is currently undertaking research into the impact that COVID- 19 is having on children experiencing homelessness alone without the care of a parent or guardian. The findings will be released later this year. 


What was it like behind the scenes? What happens and were you nervous?

For this season the whole team was based out of a big shed in Fox Studios (near The Voice studio for those who are fans!!!).

For two weeks before the main shoot, I worked closely with all the film crews to increase their understanding of homelessness and how to interact sensitively with people who are currently homeless.  The main shoot ran for 24 hours a day and I worked roughly 7am-11pm and then on-call with a phone under my pillow after that.

For the warehouse shoots, call times could be brutal – somewhere between 5-6am.  The scenes were shot in the beautiful rail yards in Redfern (freezing!!!!).

I worked closely with the series producer throughout and then with each shooter/director team depending on which participant we visited.  Getting out and talking to participants was like my normal research work, so this felt fine.  The warehouse shoots were terrifying: five cameras, lights, all the professional folk doing their thing and me standing about with very sweaty armpits!!


The show is very confronting; how did people feel who worked on the show?

Blackfella Films attracts the best documentary shooter/directors in the country who are mostly, but not all, used to working on very confronting issues. (They are the folk who can direct action and operate a camera at the same time.)

It is extremely physically grueling for them and the sound operators who have to stand holding equipment on 12-hour shifts:  an incredible commitment all round.  There are emotional impacts, and all staff had access to a psychologist during and after the shoot.


What do you hope the show will do for people who are homeless?

Firstly, the series provides a platform for people without homes to offer their own analysis of their experiences and of what is needed to end homelessness in Australia.

Secondly, it aims to deepen the community’s understanding of homelessness beyond rough sleeping and to humanise those who are forced to live without homes.

Overall the series aims to illustrate the need for increased affordable housing and income support to end homelessness and calls for community members to take responsibility for homelessness by driving political change at the ballot box when community leaders fail to deliver adequate social care.


You can hear from the Series Producer and some of the participants further at a webinar recorded recently here and if you missed the show, you can catch up here.

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