Posts

Showing posts from July, 2006

Final Stop: Redfern

Image
At the heart of every stereotype lies a kernel of truth: a starting point from which the mythology emerged. Although the truth may be overwhelmed by platitudes, exaggerations or bombastic rhetoric, this itself is not a denial of the truth that sits at the core of these assumptions. In the heart of the nastiest and most nihilistic cliches of modern Aboriginal Australia sits Redfern.

Redfern is a suburb that inspires passion in even the most nonchalant of Sydneysiders. Just a ten minute walk south of the bustling metropolis sits a collection of streets which look all the world like a sub-Saharan refugee camp. In a desolate grassed quadrangle poorly pitched tents blow in the breeze while the meagre possessions of its inhabitants sit to the side. The properties on all sides of the grass are long abandoned, the glass shattered, any good material scavaged and the rest left to rot. The area has the unkempt air of people who are resigned to living in their own filth. Local residents, bo…

Fifth Stop: Macquarie Fields

Image
It's hard to believe that anything particularly exciting happens in Macquarie Fields. Stepping off the train, you find yourself in the midst of a semi-rural area, with paddocks lining the side of the tracks. The properties are large, the roads sometimes unpaved, and offroad vehicles that actually get taken off road are the norm.

So far on this Sydney sojourn I've been lucky to find that most of the interesting places to visit in a given community are centred on the railway station, which seems consistant with the pattern of growth these places experienced. Not so, Macquarie Fields. It took me the best part of an hour of trudging through parkland, alongside roads and along a creek before I came to the heart of the 'burb: a leisure centre on one side, and a football ground on the other (AFL, interestingly). Nearby was a primary school whose students were back for the first day of a new term. All this seemed remarkably ordinary and neat, a far cry from the public housi…

Fourth Stop: Lakemba

Image
Lakemba is a microcosm of the Muslim world, and the battles and contradictions that occur within. Though not immediately obvious, I sense that there's a power struggle going on in Lakemba between the old guard religious clerics who follow a hard religious line, and the new, educated and thoroughly westernised Muslims. Take the posters that litter every available wall and street sign. Amongst a collection of fiercely anti-Zionist and anti-western messages lie posters encouraging people to donate to Muslim Aid's Jogjakarta earthquake relief effort, or to the Muslim Blood Drive.



Take a look inside The Islamic Bookstore, where The International Jew (now complete with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion!) sells alongside thoughtful books on the Islamic solutions to environmental problems. (For what it's worth, my favourite item was one I ended up purchasing: a pamphlet about the Islamic opposition to mingling between men and women.) The battle between the nutters and the mo…

Third stop: Cabramatta

Image
Cabramatta is the logical end-point of the multiculturalism of Australian society: if this is where we end up, then I'm happy. It is a suburb in which the lingua franca is either Chinese or Vietnamese, the smells are like those that waft through the streets of Saigon and the architecture seems like that of Asian societies seeking to dispell the lingering colonial influence.



After stepping off the train, it's only a short walk to Freedom Plaza, the commercial centre of Cabramatta. Above it rises an archway like that of so many Chinatowns around the world, whilst to the side a series of concrete wildlife keep a careful, if somewhat static, watch over things. The shops have a let-it-all-hang-out approach, with wildly chaotic and random collections of things for sale spilling out the door, often quite literally.



The supposed crime and drugs which has ravaged Cabramatta are no where to be seen, at least not just before lunch on a Monday afternoon. It's hard to believe that th…

Second Stop: Cronulla

Image
My Sunday Cronulla adverture really started the night before. Having a drink at the Coogee Beach Palace Hotel, I started talking to a Sydney girl. When I asked her where she was from, she said she was from Cronulla. I then mentioned the riots from December, and asked her for her thoughts. She leaned back a little and pointed to the bottom part of her chin like a soldier pointing to an old war wound. "See that," she said with only the slightest bit of paraphrasing from me to suit the story, "I got that scar when I was 17. A Lebo bloke slapped me." Whilst the 'scar' itself was obviously much greater in her head that it was on her chin, the fact that such a story is told reveals plenty about the suburb.



After spending over an hour on the train this afternoon, I finally reached Cronulla. Rather than being just another suburb, Cronulla feels like a beachside resort town, with shorts, t-shirts and thongs forming the unofficial uniform. After a short walk …

First stop: Parramatta

Head an hour from the central business district of most cities and the world, and you'll most likely find yourself in either the bland heart of suburbia or well beyond the city limits. Do the same in Sydney, and you're barely half-way to the limits of those who think of themselves as Sydneysiders. This past week has been spent at a conference at the University of Western Sydney in Parramatta, a suburb which has as many people living east of it as it does to the west. Unlike most pockets of surburbia, Parramatta is a proudly independent place, even boasting a CBD all of its own, only partly tongue-in-cheek.

Though Sydneysiders might scoff at the thought, Parramatta is a lively place with a real heart and sole. It's crowning glory is Church Street, a street with a collection of cafes, bars and restaurants to satisfy every palate. Just to the north of the Parramatta River lies a new arts complex hosting acts of surpisingly high standard, whilst just south of Church Street…

Sydney bound

Posts are likely to be a little scarce for the next 10 days as I head to Sydney for a break. Up there I'll be representing the people of Peru at the Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference. Afterwards I'll be spending a few days on my own self-directed tour of the rough suburbs of Sydney, covering Redfern, Cronulla, Cabramatta, Lakemba and Macquarie Fields, and anywhere else in between that takes my fancy.

Any Sydney readers who want to join me for the tour, or drinks at Darlinghurst afterwards, drop me an email (right-side column) and say g'day.

UPDATE 7/12, 2:20am: I'm in the midst of cleaning up the column on the right, so I'm now archiving the content related to my Sydney trip.

Firstly, photos from the trip and secondly my reflections on the 'burbs:

Parramatta
Cronulla
Cabramatta
Lakemba
Macquarie Fields
Redfern

Happy reading!

Prahran: Newton-Brown. Listens. Sacks.

It's been a rocky few weeks for CNB in the battle for Prahran. Last week Carbone and Money (two writers with the slackest jobs in Melbourne media, in my humble opinion) had an interesting story about the Good Ship Newton-Brown encountering rocky waters:

Rocky path
Five months out from polling day and bike-riding Liberal candidate for Prahran Clem Newton-Brown has suffered three flat tyres on the campaign trail. Electorate chairman/campaign chairman Tony Harris has stepped down (he told Diary it was for business and personal reasons), campaign manager Sol Green has stepped aside to focus on an IT role (for personal reasons, Clem says), and a fund-raiser has been cancelled (it clashed with another event, Tony says). Clem assured us everything was hunky-dory: "There has been no falling out." Clem needs to stay pumped because he's only 1337 votes away from seizing the seat from Labor's Tony Lupton. That's if his tyres go the distance.

Meanwhile, Newton-Brown has be…

Review: Solo

Next week is the premiere of a new Australian film, Solo. It's always good to see a new Australian film, but this one doesn't seem to be saying anything new. Here's my review (fresh from the media screening!):

Perhaps the greatest fear of any actor is to be typecast. Stuck always playing the same style of characters in the same thespian groove can be a tough problem to overcome. Typecast as a bad guy, and you're a lifelong anti-hero, the one audiences love to hate. Typecast as a good guy, though, and audiences will struggle to buy your dark side. This is the problem afflicting Colin Friels. Friels is a legend of screens big and small, but seems to revel in playing quiet, likable everymen. In Solo, though, his character Jack Barrett is a veteran gangster, moving in a world of drugs, violence and sleaze, who decides he's dumped one too many dead bodies in a river. The problem is not so much believing that Friels’ character wants to leave the Underworld: the p…