Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

On the Western Suburbs of Sydney

I have lived in Western Sydney all my life.

It is a poorly represented area in Sydney, an area that is blamed for violence, racism, and various other unpleasant things that happen in Australia. Quite often, you'll hear it quoted in a political news piece that "The people of Western Sydney don't want," followed by an assertion of asylum seekers, homosexuals, and women. There's more. You can fill in your own minority. Since Western Sydney is the largest part of Sydney, keeping around about seventy five percent of the population within its invisible borders, you will always find a minority that is disliked. Such is (sadly) the way with huge groups of people and shifting, invisible borders that hold a minorities of uneducated, poor opinions fueled by bad media and racist politics. But it is mostly not true: The Western Suburbs of Sydney is a huge, multicultural expanse of people, and within that diversity a huge range of intelligent, decent people exist, from all kinds of backgrounds, heading to all kinds of futures. They're moved by the very real issues of people everywhere: opportunity, education, and the standard of living.

Misrepresentation is common in the media and life. Every city, every country, needs its supposed dark alleys, its violent subgroups, its drugs, its sex, whatever. It is a narrative we like to have, no matter how flawed, incorrect, and damaging it might well be. But the huge multicultural Western Suburbs that is this for many is used by politicians and the media to justify awful things, and must be combated. Michael Mohammed Ahmad, writing for the Guardian, talks a little about this and it's worth a read:

Western Sydney is my community. To me, the region has always represented both the heart of where I live, and the heart of Australia. It is the country's most densely populated region, and specifically, the most diverse region, with the largest populations of people from Aboriginal, migrant and refugee backgrounds.

It represents the kind of Australia that we all imagine and hear about, and that we constantly say is worth celebrating, but one that is heavily underrepresented when I watch television, read books, go to theatres, or attend arts festivals.

Sadly, the community of western Sydney not only suffers from underrepresentation; it also suffers from limited representation and misrepresentation. There is a picture that hangs in the office of my previous employer titled "Tintin in Bankstown". He keeps it up because he says it’s funny. It features the famous European adventurer walking down a street with Bankstown train station directly behind him. There is also a dead body, bloodstains and bird poo behind him. This perception of Bankstown as a violent, dirty place is a common one.

Currently, the Labor Government is talking about ways to address the 'boat people' issue, claiming, in part, that to do so will save politician seats in Western Sydney. In claiming so, they have failed to realise the shifting, altering nature of the Western Suburbs, where a huge multicultural community exists, and the demonisation of these poor people escaping terrible conditions only results in a rising current of hate to people who have settled and contributed to the community here. There are many terrible tragedies that are emerging from the current debate on asylum seekers in Australia--from the ridiculous claim of 'economic migrants' to the illegality of those legally seeking asylum--that we all out to be ashamed by what is happening, and be concerned on how it is portraying parts of the community to all within and without Australia.

I have to stop myself from going on more, because I have work to do today, but I could go on about this topic for thousands and thousands of words. It is what drew me to my doctorate on racial representation and Sydney, and what has laid the ground work for a lot of my ideologies about fiction and work.

But it is raining outside, and that is a favourite time to write, so laters.

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