The Genteel Folk of St Kilda

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by Kerrie Pacholli ©

It is curious to me how easily the genteel folk of St Kilda, without a blink, can step over people that are so clearly and obviously in desperate need of love, care and attention.

Like a mallet over the head I first encountered Rebecca back in September 2017.  Since then I have discovered that she has also caught the unwanted attentions of quite a few well connected St Kilda locals who feel that they are powerless to deal directly with this women.

As a result I have developed an increasing interest in her and why she lives the way she does.

Rebecca sometimes sleeps in Catani Gardens in a tent nestled by Lunar Park.

After a chat with some locals, that have their regular social get together in Catani Gardens, I discovered that the tent was donated to “Bekki”, as she is affectionately known by that group; even though she does not socialize with them.  It was also suggested by those in the know that local council turn a blind eye, allowing Rebecca to set up camp in that otherwise public place. 

She is not alone in her plight.  In my quest to get a winning shot of Rebecca for this article I literally stepped over a young Aboriginal girl sitting in her makeshift bed in Acland Street.

Rebecca reflects a war weary appearance that comes with hard living, yet carries herself with the demeanor of someone with strong convictions. She demands attention and is often extremely vocal, broadcasting her thoughts and feelings to whoever is in earshot.

Her vocal eruptions can occur at any time throughout a 24 hour period, sometimes being perceived as disturbing the peace; and at those times the local constabulary will arrive with a couple of divvy vans and four officers in toe to temporarily remove her.

On baring witness to one such removal I was taken aback at the utter wretchedness and defeatist despair that I saw on Rebecca’s face.  The officers reassured me that these removals are a regular thing and that she will definitely be returning home at some point. The officers also went on to make clear to me that they have offered Rebecca all kinds of community services yet so far Rebecca has not been of the mind to take advantage of what is on offer beyond her DSP.

The group that donated the tent told me that Rebecca is not known to be a physically violent person. Yet often her dream like vocal eruptions express the resonation of violence and abuse that is not actually directed at anyone in her physical proximity at any given time.

Since I decided to write this article I have been asking anthropological questions to those that I feel might be able to shed some light as to why a forty something white women like Rebecca manages to live on the street the way she lives, against the grain, and out of step.

One person blames Jeff Kennett for shutting down Psychiatric Institutions and not providing enough on the ground outreach workers to interface with the down and out and psychologically challenged.

Others blame Big Pharmaceutical for the drug plague.

I am left with more questions than answers.

In the search for more insight I am drawn to reread a short story, by Ursula K Le Guin titled The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.

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