At last I get back to Elvis!
Look at this. I have made some corrections.
Now that, from what I know, is quite an accurate account of who is where in Sydney.
Are these ghettos?
Today in Wollongong
Here we need to be clear about terms. I doubt anyone would see Manly as a Scandinavian ghetto, or Northbridge as a Japanese one. For starters these ethnic/cultural groups are not the only ones in those suburbs.
On the other hand, when some years back M (who is Shanghainese) and I were looking for a flat he ruled out Ashfield: “I may as well have stayed in China!”
Then the South African/Jewish connection in St Ives had some controversy around it not long ago. I once worked in this community and heard so much Suth Efrican spoken there! Now my link is to a forum where we see an only too familiar mindset at work:
Jewish holy enclave
A group of Orthodox Jews in St Ives is planning to erect a 20km physical boundary in their local area to allow them to engage in activities traditionally forbidden on the Sabbath — the day of rest. But the proposal has been met with outrage in the wider community.
A ‘wall’ in reality.
Did I hear ‘racist/racism’?
That means I should be able to create a white Christian enclave.
Oh dear! There’s already such an enclave in Bondi and no-one even notices it. Its boundaries are marked by wires on poles. Such was the plan in St Ives. Now I can understand people outside Jewish culture finding this weird, but why all the outrage?
Of course some Orthodox Jews do wear funny clothes, and the women might be wearing wigs outdoors too for much the same reason some Muslim women wear the hijab. The funny thing about Judaism and Islam is how similar they are and how similar Israeli and Arab cultures are! My Israeli colleagues used to visit Abdul’s in Surry Hills when they pined for home cooking! As Waleed Aly said to his Israeli guest on Episode 3 of his new SBS show, Jews and Muslims in Australia can empathise because they are equally weird in many ways. His Israeli guest agreed. Then they played the blues together,
They also agreed seeing this similarity was easier in Australia than it would be if they were living in the Middle East.
The word “ghetto” as used now has very strong negative connotations. Just look at The Urban Dictionary:
1. (n.) an impoverished, neglected, or otherwise disadvantaged residential area of a city, usually troubled by a disproportionately large amount of crime
2. (adj.) urban; of or relating to (inner) city life
3. (adj.) poor; of or relating to the poor life
4. (adj.) jury-rigged, improvised, or home-made (usually with extremely cheap or sub-standard components), yet still deserving of an odd sense of respect from ghetto dwellers and non-ghetto dwellers alike
1. John’s paranoia about triple-checking whether or not he’s locked his car doors comes from his growing up in the ghetto
2. "Why you always be talkin’ ghetto? Get yo’self a propa’ e-ju-ma-kay-shun, kid!"
3. Jane hid her head in embarrasment as her mom shamelessly committed the ghetto act of stuffing the restaurant’s bread rolls, sugar packets, and silverware in her purse
4. "A TV Guide duct-taped to a 4 foot stick?! That’s one hella ghetto ‘mote control!"
I do like this:
word which rich white girls use to describe almost everything that’s not clad with lilly polos and pearls.
"Look how ghetto I look!" Muffy said as she put on her gucci sunglasses
–noun, plural -tos, -toes.
1. a section of a city, esp. a thickly populated slum area,inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships.
2. (formerly, in most European countries) a section of a city in which all Jews were required to live.
3. a section predominantly inhabited by Jews.
4. any mode of living, working, etc., that results from stereotyping or biased treatment: job ghettos for women;ghettos for the elderly.
Surry Hills at the time Ruth Park wrote The Harp in the South could well have been described as a ghetto – Irish and working class. My mother was still horrified when I first suggested living there, though by then Surry Hills had quite other ghettos, including a pink one.
So let’s say the distinctive marks of a ghetto are social disadvantage, relatively high crime rates or reputation for crime, alienation from the mainstream, and a tendency to confine its inhabitants limiting their choices. There are parts of Sydney around Campbelltown and Minto that would qualify, and this is nothing to do with immigration. There are some areas where the ethnic or cultural group that is least flavour of the month at the moment congregates and where those other descriptors also apply.
But I would still say we don’t have anything of the order of the famous ghettos we hear about in the USA.
Some would have named Cabramatta as a ghetto of the US kind. But see Australian multiculturalism – From stir-fries to ham sandwiches by Tim Southphommasane.
…I went to primary school in Canley Vale, one of Sydney’s outer southwest suburbs. The vast majority of families who sent their children to my school came from the old French Indochina. Many of my schoolmates were from Vietnam, though a good proportion of these Vietnamese were ethnic Chinese. There were also lots of Cambodians and Laotians. Of course, there were also Yugoslavs (as they were known then), Italians, Turks, Chileans and Argentineans. And even a handful of blue-eyed Anglos. But for the most part, my fellow students belonged to families from Southeast Asia. Their names were far more likely to be Phuong, Vong or Sothea—or for that matter, Dragan, Fatima or Enrique—than David or Corey or Sarah. And they didn’t have ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch.
This was the Sydney I grew up in during the 1980s. The critics of multiculturalism at the time would probably have called it something of a ghetto. Indeed, when neighbouring Cabramatta — Sydney’s ‘little Saigon’ – became the hub of heroin trade in the early 1990s, it triggered a brief crime panic across Sydney. There were echoes of old fears of the yellow peril. People feared ‘triads’ and ‘Asian gangs’ taking over the city’s streets. Fuzzy closed circuit camera footage of rampaging, long-fringed gangsters would be replayed on tabloid evening news programs. Working-class Anglo-Australians took flight from the suburbs around Cabramatta, though this would be accompanied by a steady and pronounced rise in local house prices.
Of course, southwest Sydney was never an Asian ghetto; at least, not in any meaningful sense of the word. Violent crime, though it was a problem during some of the 1990s, didn’t persist for long. Whether it has been because of entrepreneurial drive, a prioritisation of education within families, strong community support networks, or a combination of all these things, social mobility rather than social disadvantage has been the norm for Indochinese migrants. Today, Cabramatta is a thriving commercial precinct. Visitors come from within and outside Sydney on weekends. There’s no better place to slurp on a pho, to sample Southeast Asian authenticity; one form of authenticity, anyway. One day a supposed ghetto, a tourist drawcard the next.
And to catch a train from Cabramatta these days into the city on a given weekday morning is to be surrounded by young professionals working in finance, accounting and IT. That, and university students buried in their textbooks, no doubt destined to join the same professional ranks in a few years’ time…
Our “ghettos” then are not permanent or always baleful. Multiculturalism, rather than fixing them in place for ever, comes with choices the inhabitants can and do make over just one or two generations.
That migrants tend at first to cluster is perfectly understandable. It’s a lot easier to buy stinking bean curd or dried white fungus in Ashfield, and to do so in Shanghainese (or English) in Ashfield than it is, say, in Cronulla.
Crown Street, Surry Hills, 2008