A victim mentality!

According to Cynthia (not her real name) I have a victim mentality.

From a community member, it sings loudly that you & your others have very much a VICTIM mentality. And that you & others will go out of your way to create a situation that you fit the case of the victim. OH POOR YOU!!

I received an email (quoted at the end of this post) from Cynthia after sending an email to Transition Newcastle subscribers encouraging them to support one of the groups involved in the Transition Streets Challenge who had just discovered that Council was planning to sell a some land (which Council called a “lazy asset”) which they had been using as a community garden and green community space.

Here’s the email I received.

Hi Graeme

You knew that this community garden & space was on council land from the onset.

Why are you so ‘up in arms’ now. After all the council owns this land and is quite within it’s rights to make any decision is wants.

The council, is trying to be financially efficient and effective with its finances.

Why don’t you or one of your cronies have the community garden, gatherings etc in or on one of your own properties.

What difference does it make, where it is, isn’t your focus all about community and therefore community gatherings?

Or are you attempting to launch into negative , disabling , and inefficient use of time campaigning towards the council. YET AGAIN!!

From a community member, it sings loudly that you & your others have very much a VICTIM mentality. And that you & others will go out of your way to create a situation that you fit the case of the victim. OH POOR YOU!!

Rather than waste your time, councils time, your colleagues ‘in arms’ and my time, my suggestion is that you obtain some professional help that can explain to you why you choose to undertaken such actions.



Rate Payer NCC & Business Owner

I find two things interesting.

First that there seems to be quite a lot of anger. My email had been encouraging people to take part in a democratic process of contacting elected councillors essentially to point out that something identified as a “lazy” asset was actually a valuable community resource. I’m not sure what is so threatening or outrageous about this that evokes such a strong response. I really don’t understand.

I can understand her opinion that it is totally justified for Council to sell the asset, especially in a time when the Council is trying to reduce its deficit. I accept that Council will have to make some hard decisions and that some of these decisions will be unpopular and that I will disagree with some of them. I also accept that this is part of the democratic process. But so it expressing views and lobbying elected officials.

So I really don’t understand why she seemed to be so angry. I suspect there must be some history behind her strong emotions and wonder if it is linked to the dispute about the Fig Trees (a decision by Council to remove some iconic fig trees not far from the garden). But I only speculate.

Second, I find it fascinating that she made so many assumptions about me personally based on one email. In the paragraph I quoted at the start she assumes that I have a victim mentality (sorry VICTIM mentality).

I find it amazing that she could jump to this conclusion so quickly. She clearly doesn’t know me. I doubt anybody who does, would accuse me of having a victim mentality. I work 4 days a week at the Family Action Centre (The University of Newcastle) and volunteer 1-2 days a week, mainly at my daughters’ schools and through Transition Newcastle. Nearly all my work (both paid and unpaid) is based on building on individual and community strengths.

I believe that we all have many skills, resources and passions, and that these form a powerful basis for creating hope and change. I’ve worked with many marginalised groups, including people living permanently in caravan parks, with people in prison, young people who are homeless, and have appreciated their insights, talents and dreams.

I have worked on many projects where our focus has been on building strong communities and taking responsibility for ourselves. For nearly 10 years I ran monthly workshops on nonviolent relationships where a major focus was accepting responsibility for our own actions and refusing to allow others to make us victims.

I’m sorry, I may be many things, but having a victim mentality is not one of them. Even though I wasn’t involved in creating the garden in the reserve, I find it surprising that she appears to associate a victim mentality with working with other community members to create a positive space and then participating in a democratic process to retain a valuable community resource.

I also find it fascinating that she thinks I need “professional help that can explain to you why you choose to undertaken such actions.” I find it amazing that she can jump to such a conclusion without knowing me and based on an email encouraging people to have a voice in decision making.

I know that environmentalists and social change activists also make broad generalisations, jump to conclusions, and misrepresent others, and don’t believe this is helpful either. We need to develop our skills to debate important issues without falling back on name calling and presuming to know people’s motives.

Here’s the email that solicited her response. I should point out too, the email address she used didn’t receive my email.

 Hi everyone,

One of our Transition Streets Challenge groups, Laman Street, has worked to establish a community garden and green community space on the corner of Glovers Lane & Laman Street on council land. They have been growing vegetables with neighbours and children and regularly use the space for neighbourhood and family gatherings such as film nights, picnics and street gatherings. This Cooks Hill Community Garden is full of native trees and has been a little haven for community building since the Laman Street trees were removed.

Council is now preparing to sell the Glovers lane site (deemed a ‘lazy asset’ by council administration) to be developed into two residential lots, a decision that will be made tomorrow night at the council meeting.

The Laman Street group is asking for our support, by sending an email to these Newcastle City councillors [emails removed]- if possible before lunchtime tomorrow (Tuesday 28th May) or at the latest before 4pm. (one bulk email is fine)

The following template is provided, but feel free to compose your own.

Dear Councillor,

I am writing to express my support for the Cooks Hill community, in particular to save the Glovers Lane reserve which borders Laman Street as a valuable green space available to the whole neighbourhood. As an area with many terrace houses, most locals have little backyard space. Residents have been growing vegetables with neighbours and children, and regularly use the space for neighbourhood and family gatherings such as film nights, picnics and street gatherings. The Glovers Lane reserve is a positive contribution to community living and a vibrant and active public space.

The council recommendation for the site to be sold and developed into two residential lots will be voted on tonight, Tuesday 28th May 2013. I urge you to vote against this proposal.

This park space is:
– used by the Cooks Hill community garden group of 100 people, Cooks Hill community residents group, the Laman St Transition Streets Challenge group and visitors/residents.
– helping to foster social cohesion, social capital, community engagement and provides community capacity building opportunities
– a vibrant and active public space and provides a local informal community area.

Plans by the local community are also to recognise and reinvigorate the historical significance of the lost Burwood Railway line within the Glovers Lane reserve space.

Please vote against selling this special community space at tonight’s council meeting.

Yours sincerely


Thanks for your support and hope to see you at our screening of Do the Math Tuesday night.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Environmental sustainability, Working with communities and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A victim mentality!

  1. leahk@westnet.com.au says:

    I don’t understand why it was deemed necessary to involve this online community with such a localised issue and one disgruntled person? Leah


    • Hi Leah,
      Good question. The issue is secondary to me, (I’m not actually directly involved in it, I just passed on a request.) For me the post was a chance to reflect on the strong reaction my email provoked. Unlike some bloggers and community activists (of any persuasion) I rarely receive these types of email and my blog was partly trying to make sense of it.
      My blog doesn’t receive many comments and I’m finding it interesting that this post has generated more comments than most. I’m not sure why.
      It gives me some insight into why it is tempting for reporters and commentators to be provocative and extreme. I suspect that they often receive their biggest response when they are being sensationalist. If they are wanting to increase their readership and exposure, this rewards sensationalism.


  2. River Runs says:

    Hi Graeme,   I have just read your article on Victim Mentality. I would describe Cynthia as a NUTTER the world is full of them. We live on a small farm about 50 minutes inland from Newcastle where we grow as much food as possible for our family and friends.If you need a stress break any time feel free to make contact bring your family out and pick fruit etc. I have worked with Community Gardens Projects before (Fig Tree Gardens) I found them to be a fantastic asset for many reasons. Currently I am establishing a School Garden at a primary school where my wife teaches. All the students love the gardens progress.However I asked a teacher what her favourite fruit tree was and I would plant it for her. I was quickly and some what bluntly told that ” I don’t eat fruit”. Perhaps we should form a NUTTERS SOCIETY there seems to be plenty of candidates.   Kind regards, Lyall Burgoyne.



    • Thanks for the offer Lyall!
      I must admit I wouldn’t describe her as a nutter. I can only speculate on what was behind her email. While I do think it was an over-reaction, there could be a range of other things influencing her response. She might have had a number of negative experiences with environmentalists and she just saw this is one more example of over-reaction. She might just be having a bad day. She might think the economic troubles of the Council are far more important then other issues and is sick of interest groups pushing agendas which she believes are secondary.
      I have heard somebody else say they don’t do fruit. I’d love to know how many Australians really get their recommended daily 5 serves of vegies and 2 of fruit. I suspect we eat lots more vegies than many but we don’t always make 5 serves. Most days we have 2 serves of fruit.


  3. Marie Stuart says:

    Hi Graeme,
    I have to agree that the response you have been sent has a very angry tone. Reading your letter I was initially struck by the fact that your own opinion was not expressed however you were merely supporting a group of people that appear to have no voice in this community. I admire your work immensely and particularly how you support the voice of those not heard and experience difficulty being heard. It is such a harsh response that silences rather than supports peoples opinions and questions to be heard.
    Keep up the great work
    Cheers Marie


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