"This is one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen." Arts reporter Danielle R reviews youth homelessness documentary, The Oasis.
This is one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen.
Watching from the comfort of a warm bed under a roof that my parents have worked hard to provide, I know I am part of Australia's youth brought up in an environment that will enable me to reach my potential. But as Paul Moulds, Salvation Army worker and operator of the youth refuge Oasis points out in this documentary, Australia is not the lucky country for all.
You wouldn't think that in a country as economically and socially advanced as Australia that kids would not only live on the streets but find themselves slipping past the point of rescue. But they do. Every night 22,000 teenagers are homeless and have very little to hold on to.
This documentary was launched in conjunction with The National Youth Commission's Australia's Homeless Youth Report, which was conducted to bring this crisis to our attention and to spur action. Supporting homeless youth requires more financial support than kind donations can provide and more souls to care than the inspirational counsellor, father figure and savior that is Paul Mould.
The documentary shows the daily dramas Paul faces dealing with youth who battle drug and alcohol addictions, involvement in crime and abusive backgrounds that have sent them down the wrong path. "There's no doubt they are tough kids. But because they are tough kids doesn't mean we should put them in the too hard basket and believe nothing can change," says Paul. "When everything else has collapsed around them, we try and grab them as they fall over the cliff."
It follows the lives of eight people associated in same way to Oasis. We see them smoking bongs, being violent, and wasting away before our eyes. We see Tommy in a corrections centre, locked up for 12 months after spending time in juvenile detention. We see Hayley's drug addiction increase to a $600 a day usage as she fails to check into rehab over and over again. We see Emma fall pregnant and give birth twice and move with her partner Trent from one location to the next. We see Beau completely lose his mind.
Darren and Owen are two of the main stories followed. The first time we see Darren he is taken away by police after a psychotic episode as a result of taking drugs. Then we see the "hole in the wall" where Paul first found him and hear Darren tell his story.
Owen was kicked out of home for sticking up for his abused mother. "I used to get bashed too. I never met my real dad and spent time with my older brother mostly, but when I was twelve he got locked up for 15 years and my sister went missing for a little while...When I was 13 I got locked up for two years. I know people who have been through worse. I haven't been through that much. That's how it is."
Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don't
What the documentary does well is present the vulnerable human behind the addict, the troubled and the forgotten. It's hard to ignore once seen.
As Paul offers what support he can, some fall before they can be caught. One moment we see Chris explain to Paul that he just used that knife he is carrying. "Laters," he says walking out the door. Fellow Salvation Army worker Ken explains, "sometimes they come back, sometimes they don't." Next scene Chris is dead. It's raw. It's reality. It's what Paul, his wife and co-worker Ken deal with on a regular basis.
Others do find some hope. In the end we see Darren complete time in detox and be granted independent housing and Owen being given work opportunities, a home and possibly the documentary inspires his interest in becoming a camera man.
Throughout, directors Sascha Ettinger Epstein and Ian Darling cleverly juxtapose scenes to highlight contrast or to further demonstrate a significant message. For example, we see Emma find out she is again pregnant followed by the wedding of Paul's own son, which highlights the different upbringings and the opposing opportunities that inevitably leads to for each child. After the joy of the wedding it's then on to the next predicament at the Oasis for Paul.
One of the final images of old Ken, who has worked for the Salvation Army since 1950, moving a trailer on his own is so significant. He has the will to do something, even if it's not easy. It represents their struggle and the need for support.
Appropriately the documentary ends as it began. "If we get through today without someone having a major crisis it will be a miracle," says Paul Mould. The Oasis and the people behind its operation continue to dedicate their lives to helping youth in desperate need. Where there's a will, there's a way. The challenge is what are we going to do about it?
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