Cabramatta again, and William Yang

Last night I was more able to take in the truly excellent Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta on SBS – see Definitely must see–a shame I was not quite up to it, even if the particular episode was depressing in many ways. There is quite a discussion on the SBS site.

NGO Canh Phuong

I was born in Australia and have lived in Cabramatta all my life. I can definitely say Cabramatta has changed dramatically. When I was still a child, I witnessed daylight robberies, fighting, drugs etc (perpetrated by BOTH Asians and "White Aussies"). Looking back as an adult now, Cabramatta is no longer what it use to be. I love the Cabramatta/Canley Vale/Canley Heights area! While there may still be crime (just like any other area would), I believe the crime rate has declined dramatically! I personally feel really safe here. On another note, I would like to thank Australia for opening its doors to allow Vietnamese refugees, like my family, into this country and I have never forgotten this generosity. My siblings & I have studied very hard in local schools & we are currently studying at one of the top Universities. We endeavour to build a better future for the Vietnamese community & to give back to the wider Australian community. P.S I would have liked to see more about the NGO case.

So would I! I found my skin crawling, I have to say.

relax ppl

hi im dragana and im serb i was 2 wen i arrived to cabramatta it was the 1st place i came to wen i came to Australia . don’t judge us on the past im sure that it’s not something cabra’s proud off but u know what thinks change shit happened 🙂 move on it’s not something anyone that wasn’t there to worry about . i love cabramatta its my home town. i went cabra high yeah i had Asian friends and i love then . everyone picks there own mates . if ppl think cabra’s still the same thats there problem . livo is just as bad so yeah –.-

A Fairytale Ending

The title ‘Once upon a time in Cabrmatta’ is a fitting title as Cabramatta had a fairy tale ending. Cabramatta is now a wonderful hub to experience and feel the Vietnamese culture. A place to smell the foods and see the wealth of culture the Vietnamese Community has brought to Australia. If more of the people commenting negatively on Cabrmatta visited there today they would be able to see for themselves how far Cabramatta has come from it’s darker days.

That last comment points forward to next week’s episode, a must watch even if it deprives me of the joy of Aurelio Zen on ABC1! See also Thang Ngo: With a voice comes a chance for full democratic rights.

When I was elected to the Cabramatta ward of Fairfield Council in 1999 I was horrified at the lawlessness. The day after being elected I was offered drugs at Cabramatta railway station. Later, a group of children from Cabramatta West public school wrote to me with a heartbreaking plea for their local park to be cleaned up, saying, "Some of us have also seen addicts with knives and we are scared. We have come across people lying on the ground with their lips turning purple and stuff coming out of their mouths."

Cabramatta was out of control. Drug deals were conducted in broad daylight, addicts overdosed on the main street, in public toilets, parks and playgrounds. Businesses and residents lived in fear of gangs of teenagers but did not want to speak up, partly for fear of the gangs but also because they did not want to cause trouble. How they overcame their predicament is a lesson for all new communities.

Just over 2000 Vietnamese refugees arrived in Australia by boat after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The majority of the 90,000 who arrived by the late 1980s came by aircraft after being processed in south-east Asian refugee camps.

While the Whitlam Labor government announced a non-discriminatory migration policy in 1972, effectively ending the White Australia Policy, it was Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government that took in large numbers of Vietnamese. No one realised at the time that Fraser’s decision would lead to the first practical challenge to the White Australia Policy, an experiment that would change the face of Australia…

I maintain that during the 1990s, the NSW government and police, whether they knew it or not, practised a policy of "containment", isolating the drug problem in Cabramatta where residents did not or could not complain. As long as the authorities did not want to own the problem, the communities bore the blame.

The turning point came when we succeeded in helping the community to speak up at a NSW government inquiry into Cabramatta policing. At last, residents bravely came forward to tell the government they were victims and not perpetrators of crime. They did not want to live in fear any longer.

The inquiry humiliated the government, forcing it to act; new legislation was announced giving police more powers and more drug support services were provided.

I remember telling the community repeatedly, "You said you came here for freedom; that freedom doesn’t involve living in fear like second-class citizens. You need to speak up." The Vietnamese refugee community has learnt that you need to find your voice and to take up your full democratic rights. Only then do you stop being guests in this country. That’s the moment you become Australian.

While there were some who came out of last night’s episode looking good, it was sad to see how full of wind Bob Carr really was at the time. 

And now:

William Yang

See my post William Yang in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. In today’s Herald there is a review.

…his monologue is interspersed with score for percussion and cello (played by Joshua Hill and Thomas Rann) composed by Elena Kats-Chernin.

It’s rich and dark-textured, sometimes at odds with the subdued mood of the piece, though very effective when harnessed to Yang’s images and video footage of trees, glaciers and waterfalls.

One begins to wonder how all of this will come together, though past experience has shown it always does. As he blends in his observations of and reaction to the sudden illness and death of his brother, the neutrality suggested by this work’s title (”I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking” being a line from Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin) is challenged.

Close to the end, many of the images Yang has stealthily implanted in our heads seem to draw together in footage of whorls of floating seaweed. It’s a moment of remarkable beauty.

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