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 that 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 then established in 1882 and 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.
Across 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.
The population demographics are reflected in the many Vietnamese-owned and Chinese-owned businesses in the area. There are also increasing numbers of Thai, Lao, Macedonian, Italian and Cambodian businesses also present. Cabramatta features one of Australia's largest multicultural restaurant and shopping precincts. There are a large number of restaurants with Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese cuisines.
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 "smack 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.
- 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
- "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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