After starting my career in the sleepy farming town of Cootamundra, it was hard to imagine a more different professional move than Blacktown.
And now, looking back on the past 20 months, it’s hard to imagine a better move.
Before coming here I heard all the usual warnings: Blacktown is dangerous. You’ll get sick of the hustle and bustle. City people don’t understand community.
My experience could not have been different – and I’m in no rush to leave.
Blacktown is somewhere you can move at your own pace. Sure, you can rattle off numbers about the rapid growth of the area, but the men outside Oregano & Oil always have time for a chat.
Similarly, you can spout figures about the different languages and people groups who call this proud city home, but it’s walking Main Street where you literally taste the diversity. The food is mouth-watering, and substantially cheaper than the Sydney CBD, which is important on a journalist wage.
It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the people who make the Blacktown community so special.
While it’s impossible to thank everyone, some of the first people who come to mind are Bob Fitzgerald, Jojo Tau and her team at Blacktown PCYC, Elfa Moraitakis and the good people at Sydwest Multicultural Services, and Jhan Leach with her wonderful ladies at Blacktown Women’s and Girls’ Health Centre.
The list is far from exhaustive, but each of those people work hard to make Blacktown the best it can be, seizing on its strengths to overcome the barriers.
It was on a warm July afternoon this year that encapsulated one of the things I love best about this city. I had just enjoyed the NAIDOC Week celebrations in Blacktown Showground and took some time to gather my thoughts near the playground.
Looking around at the other benches were groups of people from all around the world – Sikh men in their turbans, African women in colourful prints, European mothers pushing prams. And in the middle of them were all the children playing together.
To me, this is what makes Blacktown great. It doesn’t matter where you’re from – this is a place where anyone can raise a family, get an education, make something of their lives, and give back to the wonderful community.
Blacktown isn’t perfect, but it epitomises so much of what Australia wants to be. It’s been an absolute privilege for me to tell some of the stories that make this unique community so special.