Flashback to O Week 2015. I’m sitting in a booth in a nightclub when an earnest young man in boat shoes asks where I’m from.
“Hoppers Crossing,” I reply.
To which he shoots back, “What do you grow there? How far away is that, like, on the V/Line?”
This comment isn’t particularly offensive. Yet I see red at the fact that this man isn’t blessed with the basic knowledge that Hoppers Crossing is neither a farming village nor reachable by country train. It’s in the western suburbs and it’s where I come from. After spending a year going to school in Melbourne, I’ve realised that Melburnians don’t seem to care about any place on the western side of the Westgate Bridge.
It’s subtle but an inclination for detesting the west is curiously abundant. I’m not saying that west side is the best side (as is currently graffitied on the back of a building near West Footscray station). What I am saying though, is that it’s hard to claim to be the best at something when you’re not even considered to be in the running.
I mean sure, Hoppers Crossing has won titles – like the hoon capital of Victoria, for instance. I’m also pretty sure that my street holds a record for the most drug dwellings that are at peace and not engaged in market competition. And as you can clearly tell, us ‘westies’ are adept at being self-deprecating. We’ve realised that it is a lot easier to laugh at our own suburbs than to embrace them or pit them against those ‘over the bridge.’ However, after enduring the prejudice that people seem to subconsciously hold for my ’burbs, I’m ready to sing some praises.
Over in the west, there’s no pretention. There’s no coconut water, there are no organic jams and there’s definitely no selection of olive-infused, vitamin-injected crusty Italian breadsticks in our bakeries. In Hoppers, we have one coffee shop. And if someone ordered a latte with more than seven syllables? Well, they’d be brought outside and called a damn wanker, son until they promised to only order flat whites henceforth.
Once a girl told me, “You don’t look like you come from West Melbourne,” as if it were a compliment.
People seem to view us as the real-life petri dish of the infamous Bogan Hunters, to which I am inclined to disagree. First, we wear shoes. Second, I’ve seen stranger clothing choices in South Yarra. Oh, so you got those dangly earrings shaped like walnuts for $496.50 from Yves Saint Laurent? I guess I was more interested in WHY THE HELL YOU THINK WALNUTS ARE A THING TO PIERCE THROUGH YOUR DAMN BODY PARTS, TENEISHA.
In 2015, Tarneit took out top spot on the national list of growth suburbs. The promising new precinct of Werribee East has recently been touted as a possible ‘Education City,’ home to an amazing array of industrial and urban opportunities. Not only that but the people are incredible. The 2015 Citizen of the Year, Walter Villagonzalo, provided the refugee community in Wyndham with invaluable resources. He has put forward accommodation and support for migrants and helped them to find new job opportunities as they begin their Australian journey in the west. For 20 whole years, he’s tirelessly served and accepted people, no matter where they come from.
Despite these positives, people still ask me if it was hard to grow up in such an ‘unfortunate’ area.
This postcode paradigm that people have saddled themselves with has got to stop. If you think that drugs are only made and taken in a place far away from ‘your side’ of the river, you are deeply mistaken.
If you think people don’t speed, steal, drink or engage in anything remotely illegal, purely on the basis that they live in an area with better views of the ocean – that’s just not true. Crime is not confined to the west. It can, and does, happen to the north, south east AND west of the CBD. As far back as 2012, The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story regarding crimes by postcode. I’m sure this will come as a shock but the top four ranking criminal hotspots barely left the CBD, with postcode 3000 taking out the dubious honour of highest crime rate.
Stereotyping people according to where they sit on the compass point is not fair. Especially to those who have to tirelessly reiterate “I’m from the good part of the west…” as if there were a bad part to begin with. And you know what? I will say it. West side IS the best side. Word.