real life

'Struggle Street' - the mum who lost two sons in one night.

Queensland mother Norma Boyd knows she’s going to be judged about the death of her two sons. Looking at some of the facts, you can see why. She could easily be blamed.

She allowed them to wander around their neighbourhood without supervision, despite Glen being 8, and Hayden, 10.

On the night of March 11, 2006, the boys spent time throwing rocks at passing trains from the tracks between Redbank and Goodna stations. At 6.39pm they were struck by a train travelling at full speed.

Boys that age – they should have been having dinner at home with their parents, getting settled for the night. Right?

The family was known to DOCS. Norma was not a perfect parent. It should be noted that Norma lost another son in a car accident – as he was being pursued by the police – three months before she lost her little boys.

It would be very easy to conclude that she paid the ultimate price for her ‘parenting mistakes’.

Eleven years later, Norma’s life is one of the stories being told in season 2 of SBS’s documentary Struggle Street. The show doesn’t just focus on financial poverty – it demonstrates to the public how people can be poor in every sense of the word. A lack of resources, education, and networks. Living in conditions bereft of dignity. Being treated as criminals for trying to survive. These are the hallmarks of poverty, and they are the hallmarks of Norma’s life.

This week, viewers watch Norma and her youngest children Kay-Lee, 10, and Eric, 8, as they are evicted from their Housing Trust home by approximately 30 police officers, because Norma’s older daughter has been charged with a minor drug offence.


As Norma is forced down the front stairs, she seeks access to her clothes that remain inside – but is denied. The residence has got a history with the police because of disturbances, and Norma’s out of options.

Sounds a lot like a woman who’s made her bed…except for, of course, all of the other factors.

Like the fact that she reported the boys missing when they didn’t return home by 6pm as expected, and was frantically searching for them. And the police officer who told the boys to move off the train tracks, but didn’t ensure they went home. And the train driver who heard about the children on the tracks, so pulled the driver’s cabin mesh screens down, turned off the train headlights – so it would be less noticeable in the dark – put his “head down”, and drove the train at full speed.



And let’s consider, as one Twitter user observed, “Did anyone ask where the children’s father was/is?”


We later learn that the police have been called to Norma’s property five times since 2014, twice by Norma herself because she needed help with the local Aboriginal children in her care because she volunteered her accommodation as a safe house for troubled children. One of the reasons why there are so many kids at the house is because the police themselves drop them there. So it’s not clear how they expect a single mother to deal with that alone, without incident? Naturally, there will disturbances.

Listen: Struggle Street is NOT poverty porn. We discuss, on our pop culture podcast. Post continues after audio. 

Norma has opened her home to troubled youths, and it seems it’s one way she’s coped with losing three of her own sons. Because there’s one thing that’s crystal clear: Norma may not be a ‘perfect parent’, but she’s a fiercely loving one, because she’s been almost “destroyed” by her losses.

Norma explained to SBS; “You’re lost. You basically give up.”

“When you feel helpless, you feel alone, there’s no one there for you, you just give up. And at that stage I was ready to give up, it had its toll on me.”

Norma was never offered any support after her sons died, or even after she began taking children into her home. And then she’s been evicted for a crime her daughter is charged with, and for the disturbances caused by the children she takes in from the community.

Is it really any wonder that Norma Boyd’s tragic story is a focus of Struggle Street?