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Edition 29

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Reportage

Mixing it up in Bennelong

OUTSIDE EASTWOOD VILLAGE Superfresh, a cavernous fruit and vegetable store, a ruddy-faced Italian in a leather apron is spruiking the day’s specials to a stream of Chinese shoppers. In the nearby pedestrian mall, two Korean teenagers – one with dyed-blond locks, the other wearing an outsized set of headphones – stalk past a Caucasian couple drinking coffee at an outdoor table. Clasping his mother’s hand, a spiky-haired Chinese toddler suddenly yells out: ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!’

It could be an advertisement for multiculturalism in twenty-first-century Australia, yet a decade or so ago the scene in Eastwood, in Sydney’s inner north-west, was quite different. Most of the Asian groceries, herbal medicine shops and noodle bars jostling for space on Rowe Street, the main commercial drag, did not exist; the signs were predominantly in English, and the faces were almost uniformly white. Now first-generation migrants make up nearly half of Eastwood’s population, while the federal parliamentary seat of Bennelong, within which the suburb is located, is one of Australia’s most diverse, home to people from at least sixty countries.

Such rapid transformation is usually considered a recipe for conflict. In Eastwood, successive waves of new arrivals – from Hong Kong, South Korea, mainland China and, more recently, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and elsewhere – appear to have settled and been accepted with relative ease, and with only minimal snags to the social fabric. In commerce, in schools, in workplaces, and at the community events that punctuate the local calendar, Australians from non-English-speaking backgrounds mingle, seemingly harmoniously, with one another and with longer established residents.

Bennelong was the story of the 2007 federal election, with Maxine McKew sensationally unseating Prime Minister John Howard in a victory heavy with symbolism: underlining not only the end of Coalition government but the demise of a leader who, despite presiding over the greatest influx of migrants in Australian history, recoiled from the language and ethos of multiculturalism. In his own constituency, blue-ribbon Liberal territory for nearly sixty years, Howard apparently failed to grasp the implications of the demographic shift – while the key to McKew’s success was her strategic courting of Asian voters in Eastwood and other ethnically mixed suburbs: Epping, Carlingford, Marsfield, Meadowbank.

In this year’s election, Chinese and Koreans – the two largest minority groups – will once again play a decisive role, determining whether Bennelong remains in Labor hands or reverts to the Liberals. Not just here but in many urban electorates the migrant vote will be crucial, given that 45 per cent of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. Surveying the mid-morning throng in Eastwood Plaza, the pedestrian mall, McKew – who holds her seat with a pappadum-slim majority – observes: ‘This is a near-perfect snapshot of contemporary Australia. Look at suburbs like Eastwood and Epping, and you see how the country is changing, and what we’re becoming.’

One sociologist calls Eastwood an ‘unpanicked’ suburb, contrasting it with the ‘panicked’ suburbs of south-western Sydney, for instance, with their richly diverse populations but also high crime rates and multiple social problems. Yet Eastwood – and other such neighbourhoods in Bennelong, which dovetails substantially with the Ryde municipality and the state constituency of Ryde – is no multicultural Utopia. Older residents deplore the ‘Asianisation’ of a once white-bread area, and much of the debate about the inner north-west’s changing face is racially tinged. As Anglo-Europeans move out, government schools experience ‘white flight’, and tensions seethe around property prices, reputedly driven skywards by cashed-up Asians. In Carlingford, three real estate agents have been firebombed in the space of six months; following the latest attack, in April, a fourth agent received a letter stating: ‘You’re next.’

 

THE THIRD-OLDEST EUROPEAN settlement in Australia, after Sydney and Parramatta, Ryde used to be a fruit-growing region, supplying the Sydney market with apples, oranges, apricots, peaches, strawberries and pears. By the 1920s many of the orchards and market gardens were owned by Italians – who, with the Greeks, were the first outsiders to put down roots in the district. They were followed, from the early 1990s, by Chinese and Koreans, whose numbers have climbed steeply over the past ten years, some arriving directly from Asia, others – after working hard and saving enough for a step up – migrating from less salubrious quarters of Sydney. The drawcards include several of the city’s best schools, good transport links and a largely middle-class lifestyle. Epping, Eastwood and Marsfield, moreover, are regarded as ‘lucky’ by practitioners of feng shui: from the air, the suburbs are said to resemble the head of a dragon, the dragon being Epping Road, the main access highway.

Where once were farms and gardens is now Macquarie University, conceived and built in the 1960s, and the fast-expanding Macquarie Business Park, part of a high-technology corridor housing electronics, communications and pharmaceutical companies. Many newcomers to the area are a product of the migration policies of the past decade: skilled, temporary, moneyed, students. And although Ryde-Bennelong incorporates some fairly down-at-heel, mostly white working-class neighbourhoods such as Ermington and parts of North Ryde, as well as sprawling public housing estates, the majority of its inhabitants are comparatively affluent and well educated.

In Eastwood, the chief source of local pride is the tart green Granny Smith apple, developed in 1868 by an English-born orchardist, Maria Ann Smith – who, so the story goes, found a seedling growing in her compost heap after throwing out the remains of some Tasmanian crab apples. Every October the suburb hosts the Granny Smith Festival, with fairground rides, market stalls, street theatre and an apple-baking competition. A more Anglo-Australian icon than the Granny Smith is difficult to imagine; however, in recent years the festival has – in the words of Greg Noble, a sociologist at the University of Western Sydney who lives in Epping – ‘been multiculturalised’. The Grand Parade along Rowe Street includes Chinese dragon dancers, and Noble was struck last year by the sight of a Chinese stallholder barbecuing souvlaki. He says: ‘It’s not a multicultural festival to celebrate our differences; it’s a celebration of local history which reflects the changing nature of the community.’ Ricky Lui, a Hong Kong-born businessman, explains: ‘It’s a local thing, and we’re all local, so everybody wants to take part.’

Similarly, Eastwood’s Lunar New Year festivities – formerly known as Chinese New Year, now rebranded to sound more inclusive – have something for everyone. Last February’s featured a performance of traditional folk songs by a gaggle of Italian nonnas. In this corner of Sydney, at least, the willingness of Australians from a variety of backgrounds to celebrate each other’s cultures seems absolutely genuine.

As I explored the area, though, I wondered how meaningful the cross-cultural contacts, particularly those involving the ‘mainstream’ community, really are. Are they confined to eating in Asian restaurants, exchanging pleasantries with shopkeepers and enjoying the colourful ambience – the dancing, the music, the costumes – of annual festivals? Or do they go deeper?

 

WATERY SUNLIGHT IS struggling to pierce a wisteria-clad arch in Eastwood Plaza, where several dozen people are executing the slow, graceful movements of tai chi. It’s a brisk May morning, and the group draws curious glances from office workers hurrying past on their way to the train station. The class is held daily from 8 am; most of those present today are Chinese. There is also a Sri Lankan woman and several Europeans, among them a white-haired man in a navy blazer and chinos.

One of the regulars is Helga Spinetti, of German descent; her main reason for taking part is fitness. ‘But I’ve learnt so much, being here, about Chinese culture. We swap books and CDs, and everyone helps each other with the language and pronunciation.’ For Colleen Patterson, a New Zealander, ‘it’s a good way to break down barriers between the Chinese people and the people here originally...also between the different Chinese groups [from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan].’ During a break, a small, rapt crowd forms around a woman brandishing a jar of tom yum soup paste. Recipes are traded. ‘We teach each other how to make dumplings,’ says Christine Cheah. ‘It makes me very happy that people of non-Chinese background, Australians, are joining us. We learn from each other’s culture: the Australian, the Chinese.’

Outside the fruit shop, the Italian spruiker has been replaced by a cheeky young Indian, who interrupts his sales patter (‘Come on, customer, step forward, beautiful watermelon, only a dollar-fifty a kilo’) to gossip with his mates in Hindi. At the far end of Rowe Street, at Eastwood Public School, at least nine-tenths of the children hurtling around the playground in their royal-blue uniforms and floppy hats are Chinese or Korean. Most will graduate to selective high schools, where the ethnic composition is similarly skewed. ‘White flight,’ remarks David Yue, who leads Cantonese and Mandarin services at the nearby St Philip’s Anglican Church. He adds, with a shrug: ‘Racism dies hard in the hearts of some people.’

Whether racism is at play here is difficult to gauge. Certainly, many white parents resent Asian students, who – pushed by their families and coached to the nines, so it is claimed – routinely out-perform their Anglo-European peers. Eastwood has a staggering number of after-school tutoring colleges, four of them within a few metres of each other on Rowe Street ( ‘We are teaching with care and love,’ reads one sign), and catering for children as young as three. The newsagent, which carries Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese-language newspapers, has two large stands overflowing with workbooks, with titles such asExcellence in English and Excellence in General Ability.

The emphasis placed by Asian parents on a good education – and their readiness to sacrifice almost anything to secure it for their children – is acknowledged by Ricky Lui, director of one of the coaching schools. He feels that the doubts cast on students’ achievements are unwarranted. ‘People say Asian kids just work all the time and don’t do sport. But they do other sports, like karate, maybe just not seven days a week, and if they get good results, it’s because they worked hard, not because they cheated.’

Caroline Xu runs a Chinese community school in Eastwood. A slightly built, diffident woman, she was named Ryde Citizen of the Year in January. With her own children Xu has adopted an unconventional approach: no after-school tutoring, not too much homework, no pressure to sit selective-school examinations. Her teenage son plays soccer and baseball. Unlike most Asian youngsters, he and his sister are permitted to sleep over at friends’ houses. He wore an earring for a term. Xu knows he has experimented with smoking and drinking.

‘I’m trying the Western way but it’s very risky, because the kids may not study enough,’ she confides, toying with a piece of banana bread in an Eastwood café. ‘I’m trying to find the balance, the yin and yang, in their education, their upbringing. But all the time my heart is up here.’ She pats her throat. ‘I feel like one of those Chinese acrobats, walking along a tightrope, trying not to fall off.’

Xu feels guilty that she never throws parties for her son; she doesn’t feel able to. When they drop him at friends’ parties, she and her husband ‘never go inside’ – unlike the Anglo parents, who often stay for a drink. However, Xu’s own Feng Hua School, which she founded eleven years ago, is an important bridge between East and West. A fifth of the nearly four hundred students enrolled to learn Mandarin – and Chinese dance, folk music and martial arts – are from non-Chinese families. ‘There are so many Australians coming to my school, wanting to learn our language and our culture, and we feel so proud. We can teach you something, at least.’

The following Saturday, I visit Feng Hua and listen to a group of straight-backed Year Twos singing ‘Edelweiss’, first in English, then in Mandarin. I’ve already been treated to a Mandarin rendition – by the kindergarten class, with their sweet, childish voices – of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. In another room, half a dozen students are playing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ on pipas, a Chinese string instrument. It’s affecting, this cultural to-ing and fro-ing. As Alan Shao, who has a daughter at the school, puts it: ‘Culture is like good food. To share is better than to keep it to yourself.’ Caroline Xu is planning a concert featuring violins and pipas for the Chinese Moon Festival in September. ‘This kind of thing really brings harmony,’ she says.

In the café, pulling out a notebook and pen, Xu sketches three diagrams, each consisting of two circles: one circle contains the letter A (for Australians); the other, M (for Migrants). In the first diagram, the circles adjoin but don’t overlap; in the second, they overlap somewhat; in the third, they are divided by white space, with angry arrows shooting back and forth. Xu tells me: ‘First, when migrants land they stick together with other migrants. Second, some mix with Aussies. Third, some don’t mix and sometimes they have conflicts.’

Pointing to the first diagram, she observes: ‘This is the most common situation, but multiculturalism is not like this – here, here, separate.’ She points to the second. ‘This is the best, but this is really hard to do. You need very high skills to design the policy or program, to find common ground, to join the different things together.’ Indicating the overlapping portion, she says: ‘If you have very smart designers, you can make this part bigger and bigger.’ She is too modest, naturally, to admit that she is one of those designers.

 

THE STATE LIBERAL MP for Ryde, Victor Dominello, is fond of the Korean proverb ‘A great river never refuses small streams.’ A former lawyer with a thick shock of dark, wavy hair, Dominello enthuses: ‘Australia is that great river, and over the years she has accepted streams of people from all over the world. And all those streams bring new nutrients, which make the river richer and stronger, and the river provides safety and direction to the streams – and that’s the beautiful relationship between Australia and its migrants.’

Dominello’s paternal grandparents settled in Ryde in the 1930s, established a market garden and opened a fruit shop in Eastwood. In a 2008 by-election Dominello won the seat, previously held by Labor, with a swing of 23 per cent. It was a stunning result that he ascribes to – as well as the unpopularity of the New South Wales government – his solid local ties. ‘I was born in Ryde Hospital. If you shake a tree in Marsfield [the suburb where he grew up], a relative falls out.’

As a boy, he spoke English with a pronounced Italian accent. ‘I was called a wog at school. I know what it’s like to feel different. And when I say that to people from Korea or India, they can relate to that. Because I know what it’s like to be in that minority situation. It’s not nice.’

Unfortunately, not all of his constituents display such empathy. We go door-knocking in Meadowbank, an up-and-coming neighbourhood bordering the Parramatta River, where an innocuous question by Dominello triggers an indignant barrage from a middle-aged Greek woman. ‘I came to Australia as a little girl,’ she tells him. ‘My parents brought us over for a better life, and I didn’t think my kids would be struggling as hard as we were. They’ve just got married and are getting families, but there’s no way they could afford anything round here. I’m not a racist, but I’m seeing Ryde being taken over. A lot of Asians and Indians are moving in, and I don’t know how but they’re buying everything up. There are people working and not paying tax, and the normal, everyday Australians who pay tax are just getting poorer.’

Such sentiments, particularly in relation to spiralling property prices, are frequently heard in the area. According to Kenny Lee, an Eastwood real estate agent, the average house now costs $750-800,000, and a two-bedroom unit $380-420,000. ‘Most of the people selling are locals, and most of the people buying are Asian. The migrants are bringing money from overseas, so they don’t care about interest rates or paying a bit more.’

The complaints are odd, though, given that vendors are receiving top dollar, while those staying put are, presumably, feeling smug about the value of their houses. The real sore point, it seems, is the influx of Asians, and that was made nastily clear in the note to the fourth Carlingford agent – and in the graffiti scrawled earlier this year on real estate boards in Meadowbank: a crude caricature of a Chinese man and the words ‘Asians go home’ and ‘Go home gooks’.

Yet straight racism does not satisfactorily (or wholly) explain the hostility vented in letters to the local newspaper, the Northern District Times. Some of the correspondence – likening Eastwood to a ‘Third World slum’, and denouncing its ‘filthy streets’ and ‘offensive odours’ – makes discomfiting reading. But what also comes across, in the carping about Asian shops and foreign-language signs, is nostalgia for a place that no longer exists – along with the anxiety, awkwardness and suspicion of people deeply unsettled by change. ‘It’s like "spot the Aussie" nowadays; we’re a dying breed,’ one woman in Eastwood – dubbed ‘Ea’woo’ by some – told me. (Epping has been rechristened ‘Eeping’.)

Kenny Lee is endeavouring to address these concerns through the Korean Chamber of Commerce, of which he is president. Each month, the chamber – in conjunction with the Rotary Club, and helped by Macquarie University students – co-ordinates a ‘tidy up Eastwood’ day. Volunteers focus on the streets around the station and plaza, picking up litter and cigarette butts. ‘Because a lot of people are saying that Asian people come here and take our land,’ explains the silver-haired Lee. ‘So we’re trying to get more harmony in the community.’

At the same time, he would like to see more give-and-take. ‘The mainstream community – we should understand their culture. But they should understand our culture as well, and mix with us, so it’s not just one-way traffic. That’s why I’m doing the clean-up days. It’s a way to mix with the local community, and for people to appreciate what we’re doing.’

Jason Koh, who edits the Australian edition of the Korea Times, laments the departure from Eastwood of Target, Dymocks, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. ‘The place is too Asianised,’ he declares. ‘Soon it will be hard to find a Sydney Morning Herald. Many Asians are not interested in other cultures; they stick together, they don’t want to learn English. [Fewer than one in ten Koreans aged over forty-five speak basic English.] It doesn’t look good, to my point of view. Most Koreans don’t know the difference between Australian Rules and Rugby League and Rugby Union. I’m not saying they should be expert at these sports, but when we meet people, we can share some things and become more like friends.’

Jay Kim is a poster boy for multiculturalism. A former pharmacist who moved from Seoul to Sydney with his family in 2000, via California and New Zealand, he owns Rumbles, a café on the corner of Eastwood Plaza. Kim’s wife, Hwa Jung Yoo, is a producer at SBS Radio. His daughter, Ji Hyun, is a concert violinist who teaches at Michigan State University. His son, Kiwook, is embarking on a doctorate in molecular biology, having graduated with first-class honours from Sydney University.

Thanks to Rumbles’ prime location, close to the railway tracks dividing the Chinese commercial precinct from Little Korea, Kim finds himself in the spotlight frequently. Tony Abbott popped in while visiting Eastwood to drum up support for Bennelong’s Liberal candidate, the tennis pro turned sports commentator John Alexander. (Abbott presented Ryde Council with a new Australian flag, which now flutters above the wisteria.) The following week, Kevin Rudd stopped by with Maxine McKew and a Northern District Times reporter. With the tai chi session languidly unfolding in the background, Rudd outlined what the newspaper called ‘his message of controlled inclusion’.

Although Alexander has celebrity appeal to rival McKew’s, at the time of writing he had yet to make much of a splash in the electorate; a McKew staffer gleefully recounts hearing, at a Korean community function, that ‘John Armstrong’s coming down later.’ While concentrating his efforts, not surprisingly, on Asian voters, ‘JA’ was also joining protest rallies, staged by one residents’ group, against ‘high-density’ social housing developments. The group – which McKew says is a front for the Liberals – accuses her of building ‘ghettos’ and ‘dog boxes’ in Ryde; federal stimulus money funded 180 new units, mainly for senior citizens, in low-rise blocks.

According to the Weekly Times, a local free-sheet, Alan Jones, the Sydney radio host, has endorsed Alexander. Whether that will boost his chances is unclear; what ought to worry McKew more are the murmurings of dissatisfaction about her performance. For while the former ABC broadcaster is generally well liked, and has warm relations with community groups, some in Bennelong feel disgruntled. ‘A lot of people, they had higher expectations,’ says one Asian businessman. ‘Of course she’s a federal member, so she’s very busy; we understand that. But once she was elected, the community has that leftover feeling. We haven’t seen her enough in Bennelong. We don’t know much about John Alexander. But whoever is comfortable with us – that’s more important than Liberal or Labor.’

I meet McKew at Rumbles; fresh from a breakfast engagement at the Epping Chamber of Commerce, she will be seeing ‘some Indian supporters’ later. Over a strong flat white, she touches on the need for ‘managed migration’, while admitting that ‘we’ve made changes recently that not everyone on my side of politics is comfortable with’: a reference to the temporary freeze on processing Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum claims.

A week earlier, the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council, set up by the Rudd government, had published its first formal document, two and a half years into the parliamentary term. The report received next to no media coverage – it was the tenth item on SBS World News that evening – and Laurie Ferguson, the Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, says ministers are unlikely to respond to its recommendations before the next election. Those yearning for a break with the Howard years complain that although the harsh rhetoric may have faded, Labor has shown little real interest in such issues. Asked if she had hoped they would figure more prominently in public debate and policy-making, McKew sidesteps the question. (To the same question Ferguson answers ‘yes’, before going on to list the government’s achievements, including the reinvigoration of ‘access and equity’ strategies.)

Bennelong is still, at bottom, Liberal territory, and McKew’s majority is just 1.4 per cent. Of the election, she predicts: ‘It will be tight as 2007. The difference is that last time the Liberals underestimated the professionalism and discipline of my campaign. Now they’re deadly serious about wanting it [the seat] back. They regard it as their own; they call it "sacred ground", and no doubt they’ll pour massive resources into it. I just hope they put up a fair fight.’

 

RICKY LUI WAS brought up in Leichhardt, the inner-western Sydney suburb settled by Italian migrants, and describes himself, jokingly, as half-Italian. His neighbours were Italian; so were his school friends. ‘They experienced abuse themselves, so we were in a similar situation and we got on really fine,’ he says. ‘The neighbours were all my aunties and uncles. We took them to yum cha. They’d say: "Tell your mum, when we’re shouting it doesn’t mean we’re being rude."’

Lui’s wife, Julie, grew up in nearby Glebe; the only Asian girl in her school, she had a more troubled childhood. ‘I didn’t really know where I belonged; I felt very lost, and couldn’t wait to throw away my Asian identity. I didn’t fit in: I couldn’t speak English, and I took funny things to school. When that song [an advert for Bing Lee, a retailer of electrical goods] came on the radio, I’d cringe and crawl into a corner, and wish I had a blond wig to put on my head. I sat at the back of the class and never put my hand up, and heaven forbid the teacher should speak to me directly.’

Fast-forward three decades, and cross the harbour to the inner north-west: a place Ricky and Julie never visited in their youth. (‘We called it the Outback; it was very white,’ Ricky recalls.) At Marsden High School, in West Ryde, half a dozen Year Nine students have just taken delivery of new laptops, courtesy of the federal government. The principal, Greg Wann, asks them in turn where their parents were born. ‘Korea!’ replies one boy, without hesitation. ‘Brazil!’ declares a girl sitting next to him. And on it goes. ‘Vietnam!’ ‘Spain!’ ‘China!’ ‘New Zealand!’ (This last from a shy-looking Maori student.) As we poke our heads into other classrooms, Wann repeats the same exercise, with similar results. (‘Afghanistan!’ ‘Iran!’ ‘Ukraine!’ ‘Turkey!’ ‘Indonesia!’ ‘Philippines!’ ‘Italy!’ ‘El Salvador!’) He gently ribs one girl for responding: ‘Just Australia.’ Of a Lebanese boy, he demands: ‘Do you speak Lebanese? Good. Well, you keep that skill. It’s important. You should be proud of it.’

A Marsden alumnus himself, Wann arrived in 1961; his year group consisted of ‘white Protestants’ – the only exception being one Catholic boy. ‘There was not a person born overseas. Now there are forty-seven different languages spoken here. We represent in one school the cultural diversity of Sydney, one of the world’s most diverse cities. And it’s that absolute diversity, with no one dominant language group or religion, that creates a wonderfully peaceful and tolerant community here.’ Wann is a realist, however. On the cover of the school prospectus is a pink-cheeked blond girl; only inside do Asian faces appear. It’s a marketing ploy, intended to reassure Anglo-European parents. (A quarter of Marsden’s students speak only English.)

The ‘absolute diversity’ highlighted by Wann is one of the principles that has guided Australian immigration policy. Yet it alone does not explain why Ryde-Bennelong, notwithstanding its flaws, is a thriving little multicultural society. Socioeconomic circumstances, clearly, are vital; this was and still is a middle-class area – only the ethnic make-up has altered. As Maxine McKew says: ‘What are people with an Asian face doing here? They’re studying hard; they’re working hard; they’re playing sport; they’re putting back into the community. If you’ve got people who are just getting on with it, why would they not be getting along?’

Where economic pressures are less acute, newcomers seem less of a threat; where crime is low, mutual trust flourishes more easily. There is scant tolerance in Eastwood of antisocial behaviour; police were swift to crack down on a Korean youth gang implicated in a string of assaults and mobile phone thefts. (The dreadful North Epping murder in July 2009 of five members of the Lin family remains unsolved, although detectives have ruled out a racial motive.)

But there are other factors, too. Leadership is critical. The City of Ryde is committed to multiculturalism; so are federal and state politicians. As well as school principals of Wann’s calibre, this part of Sydney has dedicated community leaders, among them Hugh Lee and Wilson Fu, who run Eastwood’s Chinese Senior Citizens Club. The head of the Eastwood Local Area Command, Police Superintendent Peter Marcon, believes ‘people are very sincere in their desire to be an inclusive community.’

A chunky, balding Italian-Australian, Marcon has had to adjust his own cultural antenna. ‘The first time I was on stage and someone – a Korean person – held my hand, I was quite uncomfortable. But it was a sign I was accepted. It’s not uncommon now for me to go to a function and be holding hands with one of the community leaders. You’re in front of five thousand people and you’re holding hands with another man – that’s not easy for an Italian, I can tell you.'

While Eastwood is, to a large degree, a collection of parallel worlds, co-existing relatively amicably, those worlds do overlap, like Caroline Xu’s circles – and not merely in superficial ways. Friendships – and, increasingly, romantic partnerships – are forged; misunderstandings are overcome; brave souls take leaps into the unknown. And the area of overlap will surely expand as the inner north-west grows ever more diverse.

As Ricky Lui puts it: ‘You just need to open your heart and your mind; if my face can't blend in, then at least my talk can, my work can.' Jay Kim, the café owner, says: ‘At the moment we're still on the way to multiculturalism; we're still trying to mix up the people.' He makes a vigorous stirring motion with an imaginary ladle. ‘But in the future it will be a better mix.' In Eastwood, you get the sense that Australia is finally coming to grips with what it means to be a nation of migrants. 


From Griffith Review Edition 29: Prosper or Perish © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

Griffith Review