Extra: Combet recalls early life on a winery

Greg Combet's new book The Fights of My Life paints a picture of western Sydney that is at once a time long past and still vivid today.

Mr Combet is best known for his involvement in Australian Council of Trade Unions and, as a member of Parliament for Charlton in NSW, a Labor federal government minister.

Less known is his upbringing on a winery called Minchinbury Estate, in Sydney's west.

In his book, Mr Combet relives memories of a time when the Mount Druitt district was almost a country locale but also the "melting pot" of culture and ethnicity that remains today.

Mr Combet grew up on Minchinbury Estate, a winery owned by the Penfolds Wine company, covering 300 acres.

Painting images of a long-gone past, Mr Combet remembers the winery as "an entire realm: a collection of paddocks, gardens, creeks, vines, livestock, sheds, cellars cut out of the rock, and all the agricultural and industrial paraphernalia of winemaking."

The estate made way for housing developments but one of the most striking resemblance to today is the working-class roots and diversity.

Mr Combet attended Eastern Creek Public School and then Mount Druitt High School, where he describes his encounters with different social groups.

"There were kids from socially disadvantaged circumstances in Mount Druitt and from the ethnically diverse families in the surrounding area. It was a postwar melting pot, where kids from numerous ethnicities were socialised as Australians," Mr Combet said.

His father, Ivan Lewis-Combet, was from a line of winemakers, while his mother was a descendant of Italian migrants whose journey to Australia included a dramatic rescue after being stranded on an island near Papua New Guinea.


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