Merrylands which in Sydney's west has gained a fair amount of notoriety of late due to a spate of shootings in the area but is the notoriety deserved, or is it just a victim of circumstance?
Merrylands is the seat of Holroyd Council, the home of a largish Stockland shopping mall, at least four established churches and has a fairly vibrant town centre. The obvious tensions which the suburb is likely to hold are on ethnic lines with more than half of the suburb's inhabitants settling from overseas. The council's website suggests that there are Lebanese, Italian, Assyrian and sub-Saharan African peoples living in the area, but again that doesn't account for the violence which has happened on the streets.
No, I'm afraid that violence in the suburb of Merrylands has nothing whatsoever to do with the people of Merrylands no matter how much the media tries to paint this picture. Merrylands is in the grips of a turf war between motorcycle gangs.
This is one of the sad facts about Australia; although we'd like to think that we're a reasonably tolerant society, certain sectors of the community think themselves to be pseudo-superheroes and above the law. If you were to take an ethnic survey of members of bikie gangs, I bet that the vast majority of them would be white.
The truth is that walking around the centre of Merrylands is for the most part a completely dull sort of experience. The most offensive thing that I saw was a woodfired pizza restaurant with a meal deal for pizza and chardonnay and I'm sorry but there's just no excuse for white wine ever.
This week's Parramatta Advertiser quotes a Mr Tony Georgiou who at the age of 60 is ready to retire from working at his greeting card shop:
Mr Georgiou wants to trade cards for keys and finally learn how to play the piano, but he insists that the past 19 years have been the most satisfying of his life.
“I’ll miss the sense of community,”
- Parramatta Advertiser, 1st June 2012.
That there is the heart of Merrylands. It's a fairly normal, piece of suburbia. Head in any direction you like away from the centre of the suburb and you'll find people who go to work, send their kids to school, play in the various parks, do their shopping... whilst mostly living in free-standing, single storey, wood frame houses.
Although a friend of mine used to live in Guildford which is one suburb away (and which according to a piece of graffiti on Railway Terrace, Elvis is still purported to live), I would on occasion walk from Merrylands railway station simply because I liked the Al-Mouwal Chicken shop which is right on the corner when you get out. Their chicken Shish Tahouk was fantastic.
The more I walk around the various suburbs of Sydney expecting to find difference, the more I find that the vast majority are fairly much the same, even if the media doesn't think so.