Australia’s mean streets
Seven’s new docudrama exposes the terrifying world of criminal violence, writes Erin McWhirter
GANGS of Oz, Channel 7’s attempt to ride on the ratings coat-tails of underworld drama Underbelly, is set to shock with its portrayal of local crime.
Docudrama Gangs of Oz is gritty — devoid of glamour in the way it presents actual police-video footage and chilling crime stories told by gang members.
Gang-related crime is running rampant and the show promises to open the eyes of Australians to an almost unbelievable world of violence and disrespect for the law.
‘‘It’s getting the players from the other side, the guys who were in these gangs, that makes this series very different,’’ series producer Neil Mercer, an experienced crime reporter, says.
‘‘There are aspects to it (the series) that surprised even me. I wasn’t aware of some of these stories and it wasn’t until we started talking to the players that these gobsmacking details emerged. I think some of this stuff will outrage ordinary people because we read a lot about it in the press, but seeing it on screen is something different. It just makes you realise how brutal and violent these gangs are.’’
In the first episode, which explores Sydney’s Middle Eastern gangs, one of the most engaging yet shocking moments is when Omar Rustom, who was arrested for drug dealing in 2000 and is known as one of the infamous Telopea St ‘‘boys’’, shows his contempt for two burly detectives during an interview.
Asked if he recalls what he was doing on May 26, Rustom replies: ‘‘I was f---ing your mother. I don’t know where I was on the 13th of June. How the hell would I know, mate? Do I remember what I did yesterday? I f---ed your mother, and I f---ed your mother too,’’ he adds, gesturing at the second detective.
‘‘What you gonna do? Piece of s---, you’ve got me on tape, f---the tape.’’
Mercer says the syndicates’ disregard for everything and everyone is most startling.
‘‘For shootings to happen in broad daylight in a shopping centre as a mother puts her baby into the car . . . these syndicates don’t even have respect for their own lives.
‘‘They just don’t care who they are going to hurt or kill. People are going to be horrified by this particular bit of tape, just the total disrespect for two cops. He (Rustom) is screaming that stuff out and it isn’t like he’s yelling at 19-yearold rookies— they are big, seasoned detectives.’’
It was particularly risky venturing to Telopea St to film a segment with Rustom, as he’s living today. Mercer doesn’t deny the danger the show’s crew faced in making the series.
‘‘The camera crews have been the most at risk, especially when they went into Telopea St. They were threatened by several young men who came out with hoodies over their faces and threatened the camera crew in no uncertain terms to get out of there or risk dire consequences.
‘‘All you have to look at is the Hell’s Angels war at the moment and you’re seeing drive-bys becoming a part of normal Sydney life.
‘‘I never thought I would see that.’’
Mercer says with more guns on our streets, the future appears grim.
‘‘I think there are more guns than ever out there and what’s scary is people’s willingness to use them, when 20 years ago they might have had a brawl. Now it’s like, just bring out the gun and blaze away.’’