Through my window tonight

The first  is an hour or so ago, the second a few minutes…


Mount Kembla


Looking south towards Jamberoo Mountain and Macquarie Pass and the range behind Dapto

Definitely must see–a shame I was not quite up to it

I got back from Sydney just in time to see Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta on SBS – Episode One. Unfortunately I was a little too tired, dined and wined. But I could tell this is an excellent series – honest, realistic, not always flattering.


I had friends who worked at Cabramatta High in the late 70s. I encountered the first refugee in my experience of teaching at Wollongong High about the same time. He was from Laos or Cambodia, not Vietnam, but I do recall him appearing the first day at school in the uniform of a child soldier as they were the only good clothes he had. I also recall having very little idea, as an English teacher raised on the rather useless nostrums of F R Leavis, what to do. Much later, thanks to all those great people who worked through much that is covered in this documentary series, we did have a better idea. By the early 80s, thanks to getting to know the remarkable Hung Nguyen through Neos magazine, I had some kind of perspective on what had been a bit of a challenge all round.

But what a mischievous, useless old bat Pauline Hanson was… And is. Which is not to adopt the rose-tinted view of all this – and this doco does no such thing.  I am not going to explore the issues: I did that in spades this time last year!

See also Josie’s Juice: Once Upon A Time in Cabramatta – SBS doco series. Starts tonight.

1. What prompted you to start this journey to explore Cabramatta?

Sue: I’ve always been interested in telling compelling stories about real people and when Craig Graham, my co-producer said to me “we should tell the 35 year history of the Vietnamese in Cabramatta,” I was immediately interested. The boat people issue is so topical that I thought it would be interesting to look at an earlier arrival of refugees and find out the whole story. I had been to Cabramatta in the early 90s so knew a little bit about the area, but it wasn’t until we started to do in depth research that we truly knew we had an incredible opportunity to tell this unique part of Australian history. John Godfrey, Commissioning Editor of SBS encouraged us every step of the way.

2. What were your own (possible) preconceived ideas about the suburb?

Sue: To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Cabramatta has had a dark and traumatic past, but I also knew that time had passed and so I was curious to find out just how much Cabramatta had changed…

4. What will viewers be most surprised about after watching this series?

I think viewers will be take different things from each episode. Most people will remember the news headlines, like gangs, drugs, crime and political assassination, but what we have tried to do is give the context for how and why things happened in Cabramatta. I feel sure our viewers will be touched by some of the personal stories. Younger viewers may not have any idea that these things ever happened in Cabramatta and so for them, it will be “wow” did all that happen. Overall, viewers will be surprised at the strength and resilience of the Cabramatta community at large.

5. In your own words, how would you describe Cabramatta today?

Cabramatta today is a real success story. I love going to Cabramatta and experiencing the vibrancy of the street life and culture. It has an even more special meaning to me now that I know what this community has been through. It’s not just about great food (and plenty of it!), there’s a general vibe of optimism. Cabramatta is a great place that everyone should visit.

Clearly the first  best viewing of 2012! ss10