Cabramatta, New South Wales
Sydney, New South Wales
Friendship Arch, Freedom Plaza
|Location||30 km (19 mi) south-west of Sydney CBD|
|LGA(s)||City of Fairfield|
Cabramatta is a suburb in south-western Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Cabramatta is located 30 kilometres south-west of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of the City of Fairfield. Cabramatta is colloquially known as 'Cabra' and has the largest Vietnamese community in Australia.
In 1795, an early settler named Hatfield called the area ‘Moonshine Run’ because it was so heavily timbered that moonshine could not penetrate. The name Cabramatta first came into use in the area in the early 19th century when the Bull family named a property they had purchased Cabramatta Park. When a small village formed nearby in 1814, it took its name from that property. A township grew from this village, and a railway was built through Cabramatta in the 1850s. It was used for loading and unloading freight and livestock. The railway station wasn't open for public transport until 1856; a school was established in 1882, and a post office in 1886. Cabramatta remained a predominantly agricultural township.
It developed a close community relationship with neighbouring Canley Vale, and until 1899, they shared a common municipality . In 1948, Cabramatta's local government merged with the neighbouring Fairfield, and today remains governed by the Fairfield City Council. It evolved into a Sydney suburb in the mid 20th century, partly as the result of a major state housing project in the nearby Liverpool area in the 1960s that in turn swallowed Cabramatta. The presence of a migrant hostel alongside Cabramatta High School was decisive in shaping the community in the post-war period. In the first phase, large numbers of post-war immigrants from Europe passed through the hostel and settled in the surrounding area during the 1950s and 1960s. They satisfied labour demand for surrounding manufacturing and construction activities, and eventually gave birth to a rapidly growing population in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The entrepreneurs were developing local enterprises.
In the 1980s, Cabramatta and the surrounding Fairfield area was characterised by a diversity of Australian-born children having migrant parents. Cabramatta High School was statistically the most diverse and multicultural school in Sydney, and a study showed that only 10% of children had both parents born in Australia. While many other parts of Sydney had their particular ethnic flavour, Cabramatta was something of a melting pot.
During the 1980s, many of these migrant parents and their children – now young adults – were to settle and populate new housing developments in surrounding areas such as Smithfield and Bonnyrigg that were, until that time, market gardens or semi-rural areas owned by the previous generation. In the 1960s and 1970s, the migrant hostel – along with its peer in Villawood – hosted a second wave of migration: this time from south-east Asia as a result of the Vietnam War. During the 1980s, Cabramatta was transformed into a thriving Asian community, displacing many of the previous migrant generation. The students of Cabramatta High School represented all manner of people with Asian or European descent. The bustling city centre of Cabramatta could have been confused with the streets of Saigon and historic "Chinatown", while the Sydney CBD appeared very Western in comparison.
By the early 1980s migration to Cabramatta declined, and as a result the migrant hostel and its many hundreds of small empty apartments lay prey to vandalism. Only the language school remained: it continued to teach English as a Second Language into the early 1990s, until the entire hostel site was demolished and redeveloped into residential housing. A walk through the hostel before its demolition would have revealed closed and boarded-up corrugated iron buildings once home to kitchens, washing facilities, administration and so forth.
Central Business District (CBD)
Cabramatta is Australia's largest non-Anglo-Celtic commercial precinct. The population demographics are reflected by the many Vietnamese-Australian and Chinese-Australian businesses and in addition, the presence of Thai, Lao, Macedonian, Italian and Cambodian businesses. As a result, the suburb is considered a gourmand destination for Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cuisines.
Freedom Plaza is located within the Cabramatta CBD and forms the pedestrian mall between John Street and Arthur Street. The Pai Lau or gateway forms the main ornamental feature of Freedom Plaza and symbolises harmony and multiculturalism. It was opened in 1991 by Nick Greiner, the Premier of New South Wales at the time, as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
There is a mixture of schools in Cabramatta, including public, Catholic and private schools. These are:
- Cabramatta Public School
- Cabramatta West Public School
- Cabramatta High School
- Sacred Heart Primary School
- Clement College
Schools previously located in Cabramatta include:
The main public park in Cabramatta is Cabravale Park, which mainly fronts Railway Parade, but is also bordered by Park and McBurney Roads and Bartley Street. Cabravale Park contains children's play equipment, fitness equipment, a basketball court and seating. The park underwent a major upgrade in 2009 as part of Fairfield City Council's Parks Improvement Program. The park also serves as a war memorial. A heritage-listed bandstand, built in 1919 to honour the soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the First World War, is located near the centre of the park. The Vietnam War Comradeship Memorial, a monument containing a fountain and pond centred upon a bronze statue of two soldiers, is located near the main entance of the park on Railway Pde. The monument was built to commemorate the comradeship between Australian and Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Other parks located in Cabramatta include Heather King Park (located on Vale St), Hughes Street Park, Longfield Street Park, Bolivia Street Park, Antonietta Street Park, Bowden Street Reserve and Panorama Street Reserve.
Cabramatta railway station is a junction station on the Sydney Trains network, where the Airport, Inner West & South Line and Bankstown Line merge. Westbus and Veolia buses also service the area and transport residents in and around Cabramatta, from neighbouring the localities of Bonnyrigg, Mount Pritchard, Lansvale and Canley Vale. A taxi station can also be found on Arthur Street in front of Cabramatta Post Office with frequent services and many taxis.
Cabramatta has been a melting pot for all manner of Asian and European peoples in the latter half of the 20th century. Since the 1980s, Cabramatta has been a centre for the Vietnamese, as well as many residents from other Asian and European origins.
According to the 2011 census of Population, there were 20,780 residents in Cabramatta, with 29.4% of people were born in Australia. The most common other countries of birth were Vietnam 32.6%, Cambodia 9.4%, China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) 5.2%, Laos 1.6% and Thailand 1.5%. 11.6% of people only spoke English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Vietnamese 37.1%, Cantonese 12.9%, Khmer 9.0%, Mandarin 5.1% and Serbian 2.9%. The most common responses for religion in Cabramatta (State Suburbs) were Buddhism 49.6%, Catholic 15.2%, No Religion 11.3%, Eastern Orthodox 4.9% and Anglican 2.9%.
Australians old and new (Economist print edition, 5 May 2005) relates: "A quarter of Australia's population was born abroad, and another quarter is made up of first-generation natives. At a time of globalisation, this is a tremendous strength, and with unemployment at its lowest level for almost 30 years further immigration is unlikely to provoke much discontent. Parts of Sydney are already starting to feel noticeably Asian. The suburb of Cabramatta, in the south-west, has a large Vietnamese population: walk around its main market area, and you will hardly see an English sign. But it is not a ghetto: most people who live there work elsewhere, and as people get richer, they swiftly move to more affluent areas."
- Khoa Do (born 1979), filmmaker and 2005 Young Australian of the Year.
- Michael Dwyer (c1772-1825), Irish rebel and convict who later settled in Cabramatta.
- Jarryd Hayne (born 1988), Fullback for the Parramatta Eels rugby league team.
- Gertrude Melville (1884–1959), first woman elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council.
- John Newman (1946–1994), local politician shot dead outside his home.
- Jon English (Australian Musician & Theatrical actor)
- Darren Yap (born 1967), actor and director
- Edward Gough Whitlam (born 1916), politician, 21st Prime Minister, Barrister
- Paul Langmack (born 1965) Rugby League Player
The suburb has a longstanding image problem, primarily due to its reputation as a point for drug-dealing. However, Cabramatta has been recorded as one of the most 'over-reported' areas. These drug activities began in the 1990s as drug addicts were drawn to the area. Cabramatta Railway Station became known as the "junkie express" and deaths from overdoses in public places such as toilets were reported. The heroin problem, and attempts to contain it, were the source of much controversy and failed actions involving politicians, senior police, human rights organisations and the media. The presence of youth gangs in the Cabramatta area has been a related problem, but since 2002, the problems have receded after an anti-drug crackdown was enforced by the NSW State Parliament.
Cabramatta is also remembered for the political murder of a NSW State MP, John Newman, outside his Cabramatta home in September 1994. This was Australia's first ever political assassination and thus this assassination drew much attention and alarm. A local nightclub owner and political rival, Phuong Ngo, was convicted of the murder in 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Two of Ngo's associates were found not guilty of the murder. In 2009, Ngo failed in an appeal against his jail sentence.
Depiction in film
Little Fish, a 2005 film was filmed here. It starred Cate Blanchett, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving, Martin Henderson and Dustin Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American. Anh Do, a Vietnamese Australian actor comedian, had a brief cameo.
Prior to Little Fish, a film named The Finished People by Khoa Do, who grew up in a nearby suburb, was shot in the Cabramatta area. The movie focused on three individuals with different lifestyles. It won many awards and increased the area's name towards a positive and creative status. This led to the making of Little Fish, which despite having award-winning actors and crew members, did not come close to the recognition and respect The Finished People acquired. Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Taking Charge of Cabramatta, a documentary by Markus Lambert and Dai Le was filmed in 1998. The documentary starring former the convicted murderer of Cabramatta MP John Newman and former Fairfield Councillor Phuong Canh Ngo was funded by SBS and screened by ABC TV.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Cabramatta (State Suburb)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
- The Book of Sydney Suburbs, Compiled by Frances Pollon, Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1990, Published in Australia ISBN 0-207-14495-8, page 43
- Fairfield City Council. "Cabramatta - Freedom Plaza and CBD". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Pal Education. "History & Background". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Pal Education. "Contact Us". Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Fairfield City Council. "Cabravale Park". Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- Fairfield City Council. "Media Release - 30 October 2009 - Students put their flair for plants on show Local schools assist in Cabravale Memorial Park upgrade". Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- New South Wales Government. "Register of War Memorials in NSW - Cabra-Vale Park Memorial Bandstand". Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- New South Wales Government. "Register of War Memorials in NSW - Vietnam War Comradeship Memorial". Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- Fairfield City Council. "Fairfield City Parks List". Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- "Cabramatta". ABC Four Corners. 8/4/1997. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- Meagher Reba. "CABRAMATTA ANTI-DRUG STRATEGY". NSW State Parliament. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "judge-slams-killers-appeal". The Daily Telegraph. UK. 18 April 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
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