The Stomping Ground: Bankstown - it's more than what you think it is
While the West is notorious for copping a bad rap, Rayane Tamer is here to voice the truths, myths and glorious elements of the one and only, Bankstown.
When you read drug raids, drive-by shootings, stabbings, horrid McDonald's customer service, a dangerous train station, or intimidating groups of men wearing sportswear while doing burnouts in their sports cars, there really is only one suburb that comes to mind. Bankstown.
The south-western Sydney suburb has long-been subject to such generalisations, projected on mainstream media outlets and pushed further implicitly on social media. I know the reaction I receive from someone all too well when I let them know that I’m catching the Bankstown train line home. After confirming that, yes, I am from the Western suburbs, it’s unsurprising that the next reply is (in an obnoxious attempt to sound Middle Eastern), "Oh, you’re from the area cuz?”
While I’m the first to giggle at the stereotype that surrounds the residents from the area, I think it’s time to change how Bankstown is and should be perceived by the wider Sydney demographic.
With my parents’ first ever property being bought and later renovated to be the home that I live in today, it’s safe to say that my family well and truly holds a connection to the Bankstown region. For this reason, I more than anyone else can say that my heart belongs nowhere else. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t hold a critical eye over my community (and boy, there’s a lot to criticise).
As a kid, and still now, my mornings consist of walking to the local bakery and buying $1.50 oregano pizzas for my family. It’s common to bump into family and friends on the way back home. It’s custom for my mum to shake their hand and kiss their cheeks three times. And it’s basic community courtesy to insist they come to our house whenever they are free for coffee.
As a kid, and still now, I catch the 941 bus from Bankstown train station to go home. It’s common for me to realise that a woman is having difficulty understanding the bus driver’s instructions on how to use her Opal card. It’s custom for me to understand the woman’s broken English and frustration masked in her fluent Arabic tongue. And it’s basic community courtesy for me to leave my seat and translate his instructions to her, with the two languages that I fluently speak and understand.
My mother moved to Greenacre as soon as she came to Australia in 1988. She was a complete foreigner to the transport system, the language, the currency, the citizens, the streets ... everything. Now, when I speak with her, she owes a part of herself to the community that helped her build a sense of belonging to the country she and her family call home. She built relationships with her neighbours as they worked out which buses should be caught to the local mosque, the best route to get to the shopping centre and who made the best manoush in town. This was all done with little English, great companionship and a strengthening bond that I listen to with admiration.
Now when I see the weekly congregation of Italian senior men at Michel’s Patisserie, when I get told ‘shukran’ (thank you in Arabic) by the Vietnamese ice-cream shop owner, and when I hear a Greek woman telling a young Muslim girl ‘God bless you’ on a park bench, how can I not fall in love with the suburb that raised me? By the same token, how can I ever feel unsafe in an area that taught me what diversity and acceptance is, showed me how kind and generous people can be, and is the place where I can always turn back to and call home when Sydney city gets lonely?
It’s so easy to be frightened by the idea of a suburb that is painted as one of the most dangerous in Sydney, but when this suburb has given you nothing but a greater understanding of what family means, I never want to leave.
And for the sake of understanding where I’m coming from, Bankstown is a only train ride or two away for you to experience for yourself.
If you want to have an aesthetically pleasing study session, I recommend coming to Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre. If nothing else, appreciate the design that won the Council multiple awards at NSW Architecture Awards.
To have some real authentic Lebanese food, swing by Al-Aseel in Greenacre and you’ll have found your new favourite restaurant - if it isn’t your go-to already. To understand the youth that are being raised in the West whose voices are often left unheard, watch a night of spoken word talent at Bankstown Arts Centre, organised by Bankstown Poetry Slam, and you'll see what I mean.
Rayane Tamer is 20-years-old and is in her third year of Communications (Journalism) and Law at UTS. She is passionate about social justice and has a keen eye for fashion.