Sunday, October 30, 2011

Suburb No 54, Mt Druitt

Well, you know. There's only so much desk-ing a restless roamer can take. So where, I wondered, if I gave
myself leave from my desk, would I wander? For reasons not necessarily known to me, Mount Druitt
popped into mind. 

I think I chose it because, let's be honest, it doesn't get the best rap. Far from it in fact. But seeing as
I've never clapped eyes on the place, how different would it be to the (not good) image I have of it in
my mind's eye?

Hence why on a nondescript Thursday last week I found myself making the 43 km trek west.

Some facts. A Major George Druitt was given the place in the 1800s by Governor Macquarie and duly named
it after his good self. Has one historic house called The Manse (missed it), a large, sprawling shopping
mall/Westfield (can't miss it if you tried) and a handful of religious houses (found two). In 1966 they built
the first housing commission homes and more recently, masses of carbon copy blond brick 'villas'. Almost half
of the people living here were born overseas, double the national average.

So what did I find? Well, I'll let the pictures tell the story. But in a nutshell, it was perhaps one of the best

examples of how a few headlines can ruin a suburb's reputation. Mt Druitt is not without its issues but it
isn't nearly as bleak as you might imagine.

Let's go Mt Druitt!

Part 1: The mall

I have to admit, I did drive around for a bit before I decided to commit to Mt Druitt. It reminded me of

Blacktown and Granville - at first glance, it's hard to see what you'd actually photograph. But seeing as I'd
just spent close to an hour getting here, coupled with the fact I don't like giving in, I finally stopped my 
kerbside crawl, parked and started to walk - to the outside mall area. If I wasn't going to find any 
architectural gems, I'd at least find people.

Starting with a delightful (true) bunch of hair and beauty Tafe students.

spot the hair and beauty students

colourful bunch




So, I asked one of the students, is Mt Druitt as bad as they say it is. "Nup", she said, "I can hang out here at
11 o'clock at night and I won't get jumped."

Leaving the budding beauty artists I discovered they weren't the only ones hanging out on the mall who

like to spend time on their tresses. There are a large number of Africans living in the area, and all of them
have the best, most interesting, photogenic hair.

salvation in a bottle of dye


five going on fifteen

Acakue from Sudan

back to cheeky

repeat patterns

same idea

Then I met Kamissa ("you can call me Lana") and her mum. In Australia for just one year from Sudan, how did
they find Mt Druitt? "Love it!" they said. It's all relative isn't it?

Kamissa, all the way from across the seas


"call me Lana"

Part 2: Religion

More unprepared and unresearched than ever, I stumbled across just two of the suburb's holy houses -

a mosque and a Maronite church.

good neighbours

residents of Mt Druitt

sun and stars

liberty or death

Part 3: House and Garden, Mt Druitt style

Was driving past when I spotted Ron and his whipper snipper. Been in the area for 40 years, "quite quiet really".

Ron and the whipper snipper

home sweet home at No 10 for 40 years

random old

After Ron, I was told by another local that I should check out 'Old Mt Druitt' on the other side of the railway.
It didn't take long to work out why people who live here never drop the 'Old' when they're asked where they
live - it's almost another world, with well-tended gardens on large quarter acre blocks and a mix of tidy fibro
and brick homes.

I did my first double-take when I spotted David mowing his pristine lawn, set around a centerpiece of old

machinery he inherited from his great-great-great someone or other.

neat is an understatement

David's five kids were home because they'd all just got back from a six week holiday in Malta, visiting relatives.
Lovely man, lovely wife, gorgeous kids and a respect for family history, no matter how rusty. Living on a 
quarter acre with a garage big enough to fit a truck (literally - David's a truck driver). Mt Druitt?

Montana, Bryson, Seaton, Chelsea and Dean

Seaton and Bryson

A couple of streets away I met another truck-driver, Gary, and his lovely wife. I asked if I could take a few
shots of their lovely rose bush and they produced a vase filled with yesterday's pruning. 

Gary and his garden :: 1

Gary and his garden :: 2

Just as I was beginning to wonder if I'd find anything remotely sinister about Mt Druitt I stumbled across
Kathleen. 89 years old, she was born a few streets away and had been here all her long life. Surely she
must have seen the place 'change' in that time. "Well, yes, but I've never had any trouble." Not surprising
though really - her little dog, Trixie, would frighten the living daylights out of anyone who dared come near
Kathleen - lots of gnashing of teeth and deep growling accompanied by Kathleen's warning, "He'll bite."

Finally I'd found a sinister element in Mt Druitt - small, fat and goes by the name of Trixie.

Kathleen on her quarter acre

Trixie the tyrant

flowers everywhere

hanging gardens of Mt Druitt

bougainvillea buttons

Is there beauty in Mt Druitt? The place isn't flash and of course it has its problems. But it was so much more
normal than I expected. And colourful, from the bright locks of the hair and beauty students to the
multitude of flowers. But perhaps the biggest surprise of all were those quarter acre blocks with well-tended
gardens, tidy homes and nice people. You never hear about that in the 6 o'clock news.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

progress report

I thought I'd check in to let you know how the 52 Suburbs ATW Kickstarter campaign is shaping up.

As the nifty little Kickstarter widget shows, we are 32% of the way to our goal. 71 fabulous backers have made
pledges to the tune of $6,499. Everything from $1 to $1,000. In return for their generosity they'll receive
various rewards, everything from most excellent stickers to limited edition prints and a limited edition
book of the project.

Many thanks if you've already made a pledge. But if you haven't, can I be bold and say this: If everyone
who subscribes to this blog forgoes one cheap(ish) bottle of red or one non-fancy pants pizza, and
instead contributes that $15 to the Kickstarter campaign, this project will happen! That's all it will

Meanwhile, I'm still flat out exploring every avenue to get this project off the ground.

In fact, I've been so consumed that I can't think of much else. Everywhere I look I see the world, even
when I'm doing my shopping down Marrickville way...

buying lemongrass I see Asia

buying meat for spag bol I see Italy

buying a croissant for Coco I see Paris

looking at tiles I see New York (why I'm not sure)

chatting to Life (yes, that's his name) I see a funny man!

I guess you could say I'm a little obsessed. But there doesn't seem to be any other way than obsession to get
this project up and running.
If you'd like to make a pledge please click here. Arigato. Merci. Danke. Etc.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kickstarter has started! Help make 52 Suburbs ATW a reality!

In the words of Steve Jobs: "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid
the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

And so I begin my Kickstarter fund raising campaign for 52 Suburbs Around the World. Nothing
to lose, maybe lots to gain.

The video above is the one I made for my Kickstarter page. If you're interested in helping to make
52 Suburbs Around the World a reality, please head over and check it out. If you're not familiar
with the concept of crowd funding, it's basically a way to raise funds for creative projects by asking
supporters to give some moola in exchange for various rewards.

A note about the cities I've ended up choosing. You know how I was going to visit 12 cities? Well, 
having given it some serious thought, I've reduced the number of cities to between 4-6. Why?
Because that way we can spend 2-3 months in each city and really get a feel for the place, exploring
8-12 suburbs in each. A month might just have been rushing it. Plus I'm keen to try and get as many
locals in these cities to interact on the blog and the longer we're there, the more chance there is
of that happening.

When it comes down to it, the rewards you'll see are hopefully pleasing, but in my mind, the
reason to give will ultimately be, if you enjoyed my first project, 52 Suburbs, and want to help
make this second project happen so that you can enjoy another year of weekly installments of
virtual travel.

Anyway, I don't want to say too much - all the details are on my Kickstarter page

I have butterflies just posting this. But, nothing to lose.