Words || Rayna Bland
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and its custodians, the Darug tribe who have cared for Country for millennium and continue to care for Country today.
Once I was working in a charity tele-marketing centre. It was pretty awful. The managers were sociopaths and anyone who had been working there for more than six months had a twisted dead expression in their eyes. The one thing that brought me joy in that role was the little conversations I would have with ordinary people. One conversation was particularly striking for me. This older lady named Sharice was nursing a minor bird in her lap, as her other 10 birds squawked in the backroom. We spoke of Paganism and the rain. As we spoke we realised we both lived in Lalor Park. She exclaimed to me that “Lalor Park is the best place in the world!”. I am glad Sharice thinks so. I am not sure if I think that but I can definitely tell you it is a pretty interesting place to be for sure.
Lalor Park (LP for short) is a small suburb that was born after World War II and is
located in Blacktown, out in Sydney’s Greater West. We have a skate park, some local shops, a few footy ovals, a bit of history and definitely some kooky characters. Wikipedia tells me that there is a population of 7,667 and that the Home and Away actor Brett Carroll is a LP resident. Our postcode is 2147 and has been infamously graffitied here and there around the area.
The standard dwelling in Lalor Park is a single story, square, fibro house. I live in one of those standard houses. We have a little red roof and some pink daisies out the front. Every single house in the cul-de-sac basically has the same fibro structure. Although, of course there are different colours, trees and people for each house that all contribute to the cute sense of community that has been cultivated in our cul-de-sac. There are a gang of after-school children who chalk up cute messages for their neighbours, two beautiful small dogs that are always out and about looking for pats and some lovely mothers who I frequently bump into for a bit of chitter chatter. It is a lovely pocket of the world that I enjoy being a part of. My street is friendly, communal and quaint. I love it.
All of these fibro cottages in Lalor Park popped up after World War II. After the war there was high demand for rental properties yet a severe lack of traditional resources such as timber. A solution to this was fibro. Fibro is a plastic material that lasts for a very long time. It is quite weather durable and a little bit elastic but let me tell you… it is cold. Houses built with fibro need good insulation otherwise it is freezing. In Winter catch me wearing double socks, uggs and the thickest flanny I can find. I call it the Winter Westie uniform. Anyways… because of this whiz bang Fibro invention suburbs like Lalor Park were born all over Western Sydney. These suburbs were flooded by young adults who had suffered through World War II.
The two ladies I live next to were a part of the first Lalor Parkians to arrive during the fibro boom. They have been neighbours and friends for over 60 years. Each Friday they go to bingo together. One is called Maureen and the other Shirley. Maureen once baked our family a thank you bread and cinnamon cake after my Dad had given her a lift to the shops. It was a recipe from the war era. Simple and cheap but pretty dang delicious. Over this year’s Easter the cake came out again as our cul-de-sac community all played Bingo together while we kept our 1.5 metres away from each other.
Shirley told me how there used to be no bus routes that ran through Lalor Park. Naturally, Shirley and Maureen walked everywhere. Although Shirley said she did not mind all the walking; Shirley’s occupation was a housewife back then and she did not mind leaving her four fibro walls for a bit of fresh air. The young would walk to Blacktown Main Street. The nearest hotspot for entertainment. In the 50s it was just the pictures on Blacktown’s main street. However, as it stands today Main Street in Blacktown is a very diverse place popping with delicious Middle-Eastern, African and Indian food. It also has awful parking. It is a pretty modern place now that offers a lot of diversity.
Anyways… we have lots of lovely seniors in Lalor Park. In fact, I would say seniors and pensioners are the most popular kind of resident in Lalor Park. I once met a senior called John who cared for 10 Pomeranians, he gave me advice about real estate and sent me home with some nasturtiums to put in my salad. (By the way Nasturtiums are edible flowers, I did not know this at the time and was very dubious as to what this man was giving me. They were a bit peppery – it was nice!). I haven’t seen him since but I did run past his house the other day and unfortunately he removed the nasturtiums from his lawn and the Pomeranians were nowhere to be seen. I hope they are all okay!
While a lot of my experiences with people in Lalor Park go swimmingly I have also had some pretty scary experiences. Once I was walking home from the bus when a blue car started to follow me home. I ran down a set of pathways to my house thinking he would not know where it led to, but he did… It was really scary. He followed me all the way home and he only left once I walked out of my house with a knife and very loudly pretended to talk to the police. Every now and then I think I see the same blue car and it really frightens me.
Other bad things have happened in Lalor Park. My friend’s Dad’s car has been broken into – twice. Our house has had an attempted break in. There are bongs, rubbish and shopping carts often left in the creek ways. There is glass left smashed in the footy oval car parks and at night it is not uncommon to hear random yelling. Recently, someone has been hooting around on their motorbike on the oval behind our house at ungodly hours. It is super annoying. There is one woman that I see quite often walking the streets, chewing her lip, eyes wide and bloodshot, skin pale and scabbed and thin to the bone. She looks really sad and lost. I feel for her. I do not know her story personally but I think she might be a victim of drug abuse. I remember at the local Lalor Park Thai there was a meth bust. My Dad is a firefighter and was on duty at the scene. I was super into Breaking Bad at the time so my Dad invited me down to see some meth. I was 14 at the time and definitely told everyone at school. I thought it was really cool but in hindsight it is definitely disturbing.
There is bad in every suburb. That is the way it works. Nobody, and no suburb is perfect. It is important to seek, see and create the good in places and people. There is a lot of this goodness in Lalor Park. This goodness can be found around the heart of LP. The Lalor Park shops. In these shops you will find the best kebab. Pizza and Kebabs at Lalor Park, check it out! Great service and food. There is also a community garden next door where monthly sustainability workshops are held. Lalor Park was also a part of an initiative to invite art in public spaces. As a result, the suburb has been gifted with beautiful murals featuring cockatoos and rainbows. Often, markets are also held near the community hall where locals buy, swap and sell their treasured items. Lalor Park has an accessible recycling initiative and there are many organised Bushcare clean ups where valuable volunteers clean up local parks. Lastly, one of my old high school acquaintances wrote to the council requesting a skate park and he got it! It is named in his honour and has definitely become a major spot in Lalor Park, used by all ages alike. Another person I went to school with who lives in LP can be found all throughout Lalor Park pumping sick beats from his mobile scooter wheelchair. He wears a snapback accompanied by a rats tail and topped off with a cheery attitude and smile as you pass by. I see him literally every week without fail. It is amazing.
Lalor Park is a good place full of good people. LP has been a place where people have been able to find home in hard times. War veterans, migrants, pensioners, young families and differently abled people. It is culturally diverse and ever-changing in the modern world. LP is a beautiful community and I am proud to live in such a unique place. Is it the best place in the world? To most people in Lalor Park such as Sharice, I would say yes. Yes it is.