Frankston North is often defined by its stereotypes and by the statistics. 16 year old Paige is from Frankston North, and also a participant of Project O. In this frank piece Paige says it's time to us to stop writing about Frankston, and start listening.
“Some of you here might feel like you’ve heard about me before. Remember, ‘that naughty kid’. You know, one of those mouthy girls who really needs to watch her tongue. One of those girls who’s complicated because you know, she comes from Frankston North. And that place is trouble.
And in the spirit of this year’s International Women’s day theme “Each for Equal’. Equally, I’ve heard of you. You’re one of those grumpy old men, one of those mean strict teachers, one of those guys at school no-one likes, one of those posh rich people that you’d never see in ‘The Pines’.
It’s amazing how much we know about each other isn’t it? And to think we’ve never even had a conversation? We don’t need to waste our time to do that, when society relies on stereotypes as a much easier and quicker way to decide who someone is and which box they belong to. We can even use numbers to generalise about each other – from our postcodes, our gender, our accents, our finances and our age. I know that there is research and statistics that can create a picture of what I might look like – ‘a young woman from Frankston North’.
But I’m starting to think that even though it’s a quick way, it might not be the best way. Because really you don’t know me, just like I really don’t know you. And because of this box I fall into and the box you might fall into, we might not have the opportunities to consider each other’s stories and experiences. We might not have the chance to understand one another. And if we don’t really understand one another, how can we possibly know what works best for each other, in areas where we need help?
Now, while we are all here together, I’d love to use the time we have for you to get to know the young woman I am, and my community, a bit better.
Frankston North has a strong reputation. One that says we’re underprivileged, we’re junkies, we get into fights, ‘we’re failing at school, we’re not getting jobs’. There are some people who live up to that reputation, and it can be easier to see the bad instead of the good. But there is more to Frankston North than what you think you know. And most of the people who live in Frankston North would love to be able to share that because we are rarely given the platform for the good to outshine the bad.
To me the community of Frankston North feels like a family. Like any family we can have issues but at the end of the day we are all there for each other and are proud to stand together.
When I think of Frankston North, I think of the old man I see most days walking his golden retriever, who always has a smile and says hello, the neighbours out talking as I walk to school. Or the ladies at the community centre who meet each week to talk and knit toys and clothes for kids. I think of my football team and teammates. Our loyalty to one another and the strength and perseverance we have to keep going and do our best even when we are exhausted. I think of the way we stand together when things are tough.
We are not afraid to see the issues facing our community. We know they are real, some of us live these issues every day. But for many people, especially young people, we can feel like we are defined by Frankston North’s reputation. We see the judgement that comes with it and it can feel easier to play into the stereotype than to challenge it. Especially when we don’t feel seen or heard. OR when society tells us that power and influence only come from money and status.
I’ve been told that you won’t have a voice unless, you have money, you’re in politics or you’re famous. But I have decided power’s not just about those things. Power is in knowing who you are and what you stand for and having the courage to stand up for what you think – regardless of what box you’ve been put into.
And to all of the young women that are here in Project O tonight. I want to say we have a choice. To believe the story the stereotypes put on us, and to believe the idea that we don’t have a voice, or to have the courage to make ourselves seen and heard, to speak louder than those generalisations.
We have the choice to change the patterns that need changing. In my own story I have had to overcome challenges, and those challenges have informed my approach to life 100%.
They have made me want to strive for the positive, they have given me the resilience to stand up for myself, to speak up even when people might find it hard to hear.
For me ‘each for equal’ means breaking the habit we have as a society to label each other. It means taking the time to get to know someone’s story and respect the right of the individual to be a voice of authority around issues that affect them directly.
It’s the right for us all to feel our voices are valued.
Thank you for listening to my story, I look forward to listening to yours.”
Project O Frankston participant Paige Duffin Paige delivered this speech at the launch of This is Us in Frankston on 6th March 2020, and developed the speech with the support of Project O mentors. To find out more about Project O, visit the website HERE.