Friday, October 30, 2009

suburb No 9: Blacktown

What did I know about Blacktown before I ventured out there this week? Only that a 52 Suburbs 
follower suggested I visit it for a ‘real challenge’. Cripes. What if I returned sans snaps? What if 

couldn’t find a single interesting angle, appealing pattern or, god forbid, artful tattoo to photograph?

The weather was conspiring against me too – at the very least a clear blue sky would offer some colour,

some interest. But no, just grey blandness everywhere in Sydney earlier this week. As I rocketed along 
the M4 in search of a suburb so obviously bad they couldn’t even give it a colour, under an equally 
monotone sky, I felt sure I was doomed.

Enough of my internal agonies – the facts:

• The Warmuli, Gomerigal and Wawarawarry clans of the Darug people lived in the area until the 

arrival of the Europeans in the 1790’s

• Governor Macquarie, more pro-Aboriginal than his mates, established Blacks’ Town in 1821 and 

granted land to two indigenous men

• In 1862 the suburb became known as Blacktown. Semi-rural until it took off in the 1950’s when the

railway line was electrified

• Blacktown still has the largest Aboriginal population in NSW, as well as immigrants from the 

Philippines, India and Africa (Sudan, Liberia)

• There are some historic buildings dotted around in nearby suburbs of Mount Druitt, Rouse Hill and

Prospect. But in Blacktown itself, there are only two: a former school that’s now the Visitor & Heritage 
Centre and an old church, now home to the Blacktown Arts Centre.

How was it? I won’t lie. It was pretty tough going. At one stage I was more interested in what to have 

for lunch than what to photograph.

But then something happened. Lured to a public hall in the centre of town by the smells of spicy food I 

chanced upon the Community Expo 09. Doesn’t sound like a riot I know. But compared to the 
characterless suburban streets I’d just driven around, desperately waiting for something to catch 
my eye, it was gold.

The room was filled with colour and movement. Bollywood dancers performing at one moment, 

didgeridoo booming out the next. I met Africans from Sierra Leone, Sudan, the Congo and Liberia. 
An afro-Brazilian. And Martin (skin name, Jupurula), the didgeridoo guy, from the Gamillaroi tribe of 
northwest NSW…

Jupurula and his didgeridoo


tribes, old and new

aren't we all?

taming nature

from Sudan to Sydney

skin deep

street art (mural on utility box and hair twists)

one of the lucky ones

red brick in Blacktown

mother and daughter

lace and roses

the colour purple

row upon row

how does your garden grow

say cheese

we're all connected

past history



Beauty? Blacktown didn’t jump out at me as a place blessed with beauty of a natural or built 
variety. In the town centre 99% of the old has been replaced with not so good new, much of it 
looking in need of replacement itself. As far as homes go, I didn't spot any McMansions thankfully 
and the old weatherboards and fibros have some charm, enhanced by a rose bush or in a couple
of cases, well tended gardens. But - there’s also a lot that’s appealing about a suburb that can 
accommodate vastly different cultures and traditions, providing much needed sanctuary from 
less tolerant societies. To my eyes Blacktown represents hope and is full of life and colour - you 
just have to search for it.

You might like to visit...

Blacktown Visitor Information and Heritage Centre
, Flushcombe Road, Blacktown.

A wonderful sounding play on at the
Blacktown Arts Centre about the experience of being 

Sudanese in Sydney, My Name is Sud. 19-21 and 26-28 November. Bookings, 9839 6558.

See you next week. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

suburb No. 8: Harris Park (Parramatta)

You know how I said this week's suburb would be the one most requested? Well, thank you to those 
who made suggestions, I was all set to follow your lead. Until I discovered that the Indian Diwali 
Festival was on in Harris Park - and I am a sucker for anything Indian.

Harris Park? Never heard of it before of course but a quick flick of the street directory revealed it's 

just east of Parramatta. In fact, used to be part of the suburb of Parramatta (hence the image above) 
and still is part of the City of Parramatta.

Super quick history lesson this week:

• The Burramattagal clan of the Dharug people were the first residents in the area

• Then came the Europeans and the convicts (James Ruse ring a bell?)

• Then the Lebanese

• Then the Indians.

There's still an Aboriginal presence in the area and large numbers of Chinese too. But the Lebanese 

and Indians do seem to dominate.

On my way to find the Hindu temple I passed by an amazing structure - Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite 

Church, built in 1972.

Now I realise I'm revealing my ignorance here (nothing new) but I always associate the Lebanese 

population with Islam. Turns out there's a large Christian Lebanese following too - and this was their 

I should also mention there are several historic buildings in Harris Park, all of which I completely 

ignored. I'm sure they're worth a visit but I was too focused on the fascinating mix of the Indian 
and Christian Lebanese cultures/religions - in an area so important in Aboriginal history - for anything 
else to get a look in.

As it was I only caught the tail end of the Diwali Festival so I can't show you any fireworks or houses 

lit with 'diyas', tiny clay-pot candles. But the tail end was still pretty good. I left Harris Park laden 
with Indian sweets, new knowledge and a camera full of holy crosses, Aboriginal 'art' and saris...

Part 1: Searching for the light

A description I read somewhere of the Diwali Fesitval - a “Christmas-New Year-auspicious beginnings 

festival rolled into one”. While Diwali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant 
spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".

Isn't that what all religions are about, at their core?

light :: 1

light :: 2

light :: 3

light :: 4

light :: 5

bright spirit

all life needs light

Part 2: Oneness

oneness :: 1

oneness :: 2

oneness :: 3

oneness :: 4

oneness :: 5

stop and think

Part 3: We all live on borrowed land

borrowed land :: 1

borrowed land :: 2

borrowed land :: 3

borrowed land :: 4

borrowed land :: 5

borrowed land :: 6 (Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church)

borrowed land :: 7

Part 4: Yum

yum :: 1

yum :: 2 - before and after

yum :: 3

yum :: 4

Part 5: And ...

southerly buster

traffic stopping

shiny shiny in a not so shiny world

old style


those eyes

hey, charger!

So much beauty in the mix and such obvious passion for their respective religions and cultures. 
But you can feel the tension. A microcosm of the world right there in Harris Park.

You might like to visit...

Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church, 40 Alice Street, Harris Park.

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (BAPS), 40 Eleanor Street, Harris Park.

Sweet Land Patisserie, 55 Wigram Street, Harris Park.

Festival of the Olive - on this weekend at Elizabeth Farm, 70 Alice Street, Rosehill.

See you next week.