OUTTA MIDLAND – Perth Eastern Suburbs – FIGHT or NEGOTIATE – But never back down

Effective management cannot take place from boardrooms and endless committees. 

My mum was a cleaner and she gave me some of the finest wisdom which has helped me to create wholesome social change in my sphere of influence.

“Too many cleaners move dirt around and never lift the dirt off the floor, when you clean, start at one corner always lifting the dirt off the floor” ~ Sofia Smilovitis

Let me paraphrase mum’s lesson relevant to the world of management ~ “Too many managers occupy time by moving dirt around, rarely will they lift the dirt off the floor and create effective social change.”

1978 – Perth’s Eastern Suburbs

1978, I finally finished school forever, an end of school discos, school fights and wagging classes. The Eastern Suburbs of Perth felt like jungle warfare and you had to have one of two skills or both, learn how to fight or master the art of negotiating, but never back down.

Midland seemed to be the epicentre of the true blue working class, strong indigenous representation, migrants and business people alike.

Midland Town Hall was where I attended one of the last school disco’s. Most of us caught the train to Midland from Bayswater or Bassendean and the first thing you considered, who would you ride with?. Midland Train Station was a notorious stronghold and fights were inevitable. Truth or myth, back in 1978, Midland had a bad rap, but then again so did most of the Eastern Suburbs.

To watch a fight break out in a Hungry Jacks car-park was great entertainment. Seeing someone’s  head repeatedly smashed on the concrete speed-hump was nothing but amusing to dozens of teenagers that had very little purpose in life, me being one of them. The Eastern suburbs were known for their black ripple soled desert boots, checkered lumber jackets worn religiously even in the 40 degrees of summer, Utes and AC/DC.

2018 The Jewel of Midland no More

No more workshops, thousands of workers displaced, the town-centre decimated as local landlords pay rates to buildings they can’t lease, and all that remains is a refurbished town hall. It’s not that Swan hasn’t been busy, but so much dirt has been moved around and it just doesn’t feel clean.

My skin in the game 

I had the privilege of managing Centrepoint Shopping Centre for a number of years mid 2000’s on behalf of a local family. I made Midland my home base even though my work spread from Quinns, Fremantle, City Beach to the Eastern Suburbs. My commercial real estate friends laughed when I said I was based in the City Centre of Midland, “That hole” was a term they often used to describe Midland. 

pic taken Sept 2018 of the Midland Train Station steps  – Typifies the attitude – They’ve been talking about moving the train station for years, so they neglect it for years.

Perhaps being raised in the Eastern Suburbs, I didn’t see Midland as ‘A Hole’, I saw it as neglected, forgotten and under represented. Maybe I was naive or over optimistic but I believed I could make a difference to the shopping centre that was run down and we could help the tenants that looked tired and defeated.

My Baptism back into Midland after thirty years. 

I wore my best suit and silk tie and set up my office which overlooked The Midland Town Hall. First things first, meet the tenants one by one and listen to all their woes. Many looking at me with pitiful eyes telling me how I was wasting my time thinking I could make a difference to the shopping centre. I entered into yet another a toxic, negative and depressing environment and in the coming weeks would discover why.

Prior to me, the shopping centre was managed by world-class agencies. The agencies did their job and accepted the surrounding anti social conditions of the shopping centre, it’s just Midland I heard repeatedly.

When the boutique agency that I worked for took over the management of the shopping centre, things were about to change, why?

You start a fight, negotiate or do both, but you never back down until change happens.

Photo taken approx 2010 with the owners of the shopping centre, my old boss and the builder with plans to refurbish the centre.

In the years of managing the shopping centre, I took on my mum’s philosophy ~ ‘Clean the place up, don’t just move dirt around’.

I’m sure the local police had a dedicated line to my office because I would call them ten, twenty, thirty times a day until matters of anti social behavior were sorted. No one should have to endure threats of any kind especially when going shopping. On any given day there would be a group of people drinking at one of the entrances of the shopping centre and in disbelief I’d ask the group “What do you think you are doing, drinking here is illegal?” Their response, “We’ve been doing this for years”…. my response “Not anymore” (You must remove the dirt, not just move it around)

For a short season, I wasn’t the most popular bloke in the heart Midland. I was sworn at and threatened by all sorts of people for various reasons. Day in day out, my mode of operation was not negotiable. The objective was clear, a clean site is a safe site and it attracts good will. Slowly but surely we were able to draw new tenants and refurbish the centre, but more importantly the centre felt different. Culture must be birthed and nurtured, only weeds grow naturally.

I could write a book on the incidents that happened throughout my tenure at Centrepoint and the cultural changes were simply a result of addressing things at a grassroots level. Over the years I even made friends with many of the antisocial people that caused the centre grief. I tried at all times to be impartial, empathetic and purposeful in all my dealings.

I believe long-lasting change must always start at a grassroots level and the true leaders of social change produce evident results outside of written reports. My role as a centre-manager was never to interfere with anyone’s business. I was not there to compete with anyone’s business, I was a mere facilitator to create greater traffic flow and provide a safe environment.

I believe city councils do themselves a disservice to the small business community and the community at large when they fail to deal with the culture of a city, believing their hands are tied. Effective management cannot take place from boardrooms and endless committees. 

I love the Eastern Suburbs – So many successful people have come OUTTA them over the last fifty years. I feel a wave of new entrepreneurs are being birthed and learning how to fight, negotiate and not back down from wholesome social change.

Join your local business chamber or not for profit and be a part of the social change.

2 thoughts on “OUTTA MIDLAND – Perth Eastern Suburbs – FIGHT or NEGOTIATE – But never back down

  1. Tom – let’s build a team of community developers and breath fresh ideas into our community of Midland, starting with grass roots leaders.


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