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







Brendan







Beth







vintage






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






 
Tausi







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








flowers







"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.

43 comments:

  1. What a pleasure - more trips and pics!

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  2. I live next to Mt Druitt, and this post was wonderfull! You've inspired even me to try and look at Mt Druitt in a nicer light!

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  3. I LIVE IN MOUNT DRUITT :) :) and i can honestly say you've made it look amazing <3 i love your photos

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  4. A girlfriend lived in Mt Druitt and all I ever heard was how dangerous and scary it was... it certainly is all perception and thank you for sharing a new brighter perspective... you are so creative with your colour and pattern combinations...Well done and wonderful inspiration! ... from a fellow creative Graphic Designer!!

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  5. Thank you for the lovely photos. It's great to see Mt Druitt not from the news lens.

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  6. looks lovely. There's beauty everywhere if you can see it.

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  7. Absolutely love how you turn the everyday into something extraordinary: gorgeous photos, gorgeous stories.

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  8. Elizabeth - Glad you enjoyed it. It was so good to get out there again, I really miss it.

    Lars - Good to hear!

    Pauline - I was so hoping someone from the suburb would see this post. So happy you like it.

    Anon - Yes, perception indeed. Thanks for your lovely comments too.

    Charmaine - Wouldn't it be wild if the stories that made the news were all positive. I know we need to hear the bad stuff but it can really taint the whole picture.

    Anon - Absolutely.

    Christine - Thanks so much.

    Louise

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  9. I love this photo journey through Mt Druitt...beautiful people...pristine gardens... and as for Trixie....SCARY!!! Look at those eyes!!!
    :-)

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  10. So good. Now that's clever and sensitive documentary work if ever I've seen it! Well done Louise

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  11. Louise, I think this has been one of the most eye-opening suburbs you have done! I didn't know much about Mt Druitt except that it was very far away and every now and then would hear a bad story about it. However I love how you've uncovered the characters of the people and really brought out the beauty in it :)

    Thanks for opening my eyes!
    Vanessa

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  12. Louise, I loved your post!!!

    It is beautiful.

    The contrasts and similarities in these pictures are striking.

    It also transported me back to the pictures viewed of my partners early years...the fibro houses of Granville where mum was raised and dad's early life here when he and his mother arrived from Malta.

    Thank you!!!

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  13. Gretel - Thanks, and yes, Trixie was a little scary!

    Adam - Thanks so much.

    Vanessa - It's amazing how we form opinions in such a black and white way isn't it?

    Natalie - So glad you enjoyed it.

    Louise

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  14. YAAAY! Fantastic! I'm from 'Mounty County' and loved seeing it in a positive context for once. Wish your gorgeous images were more well-known than the 'class we failed' headline from the 90s. Good on you!

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  15. I only recently came across your work by fluke and am in awe. What a fantastic idea and photos you've captured. Keep up the great work Louise.

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  16. I have worked in the area for 11 years helping people who are doing it tough, so I have seen the many sides of Mt Druitt. You would think that would taint my perception but no, Mt. Druitt is a strong resiliant community. I prefer to shop here than where I live. People are down to earth. They accept you as you are. They are easy going, ready for a chat. Are there problems, of course, but the difference in a suburb like Mt Druitt, is that they are brave enough to show them out in the open, not hide them behind closed doors like they do in more affluent suburbs. Congratulations on a great story and photos.

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  17. I have lived close to Mt Druitt for nearly twenty years and surrounding suburbs for eighteen years before. It is nice to see someone creating positive awareness about the area. It does have it's issues and problems but it also has educated, honest and hard working people. This is not shown in the media, only the negatives. Thank you.

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  18. I can't thank you enough for the positive vibe. I've lived in the Druitt for over 45 years and we don't deserve the stigma the media has dumped on us. Good people are everywhere as well as the bad, but the Druitt is packed with the good ones. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

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  19. Beautiful, beautiful post. It made my heart sing.

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  20. awesome, awesome, thanks a bunch.... yes there is good and bad everywhere, however, mounty is so full of beauty , character and talent....you need to live here to experience the best of mounty county!

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  21. I moved to the Mt Druitt area last year because it was affordable and accessible - I could get a great deal more for my money! I spent months searching and looking beyond the stereotypes. For the most part I have found the people here to be friendly and polite. Crime is certainly not limited to certain area codes. As Anonymous said before me, it does have it's issues, but so does every other place I've ever lived. A house selling for a million dollars does not mean it's safe to walk the street at night. I feel safer here than I did living 15kms from the city. My neighbours are friendly and welcoming. Places change faster than the prejudice and stereotypes associated with them. I applaud your post. Thank you!

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  22. I SO enjoyed reading this and seeing your wonderful photos. I grew up in Mt. Druitt and have a lot onf great memories...

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  23. I grew up in the Mt Druitt area and I would cop a lot of negative comments from people outside the area when they asked where I was from. I would always ask them if they had ever been there and the answer was rarely yes. Agree with a lot of other people's comments regarding the fact that it is far from perfect but when I lived there, and I'm sure the same applies for others living there now, I knew some lovely, hard working, honest, culturally motivated and intelligent people. When people stereotype and generalise they show their own ignorance. Beautiful photography and an enthralling and positive narrative. Thank you for presenting the other side of Mt Druitt.

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  24. Looks like a wonderful neighbourhood, nothing like the reputation I'd heard! As a matter of fact I'd love to get the price of some of those homes. We've been considering leaving Brisbane for Sydney for a while now.

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  25. Ive lived all around Australia as my father was in the RAAF, and ive lived in Mt Druitt for the past 23 years.. its my home and i love it.. thank you for showing all what i see everyday.. beautiful homes, people and families.. its about time people see my home as i do, thank you so much ��

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  26. I deliberately drive 20 minutes to Mt Druitt so I can get my Starbucks fix!!

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  27. My family live in Lethbridge Park (almost next door) and I've always been slightly ashamed of that. Thank you for showing me that there is beauty to be found in the most unlikely places.

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  28. I loved living in old mount druitt, thank u for the beautiful comments and gorgeous photos

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  29. every place has its goods n bads n mount druitt is one of them

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  31. This is the best and most amusing, delightful, entertaining and uplifting article I've read in a really long time.

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  32. I like Mt Druitt, most people are friendly and willing to stop and help when help is needed. Generous even when they're struggling. Good people, hard working and proud.

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  33. I enjoyed reading th is. Thank you for putting Mt Druitt in a good light.

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  34. I use to love in Bidwil and would have to sayyou made Mounty county look so wonderful. If the rest of the residents want it to continue to look so great they need to grow up and start realizing its them that make the area look so bad. Get up and do something with there lives than winge that there area has a bad name they can only fix not anyone else

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  35. I grew up in mt druitt I wouldn't live there again

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  36. Could you do a piece on the trashy and sleazy side of the 52 most exclusive suburbs in Sydney?

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