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Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son
Mounty County isn’t on any maps, it’s a bit of a local name for the aspirationally-named Mount Druitt. Because while Rooty Hill is an actual hill, Mount Druitt… well, it’s certainly not a mountain, although possibly there is a bit of a mound, somewhere.
While some of the other articles have been broader in scope, I think locally first. So I’ll stay close to home…
Ten Best Things
1. Cycling. Sure, the cycleways don’t particularly go anywhere useful, but the ones that are there, are great. And the Western Sydney Parkland includes a fantastic cycleway that goes from Liverpool to Castle Hill, straight through the middle of Mounty County.
2. Cultural Diversity. This is a two way street, but Blacktown and Mount Druitt (which is a group of suburbs in Blacktown) is a melting pot. A lot of refugees, migrants from a wide range of backgrounds, Aboriginal Australians, on the usual cultural background of christian white Australia. This certainly makes life interesting, and I am hoping, is helping my children grow up to be “colour blind” and very open to seeing the person. It’s certainly a lot more interesting than when I grew up in a homogenously white Australia with possibly only one person of some other race in my class!
3. School resources. This is a real challenge. Given the low socio-economic background of the suburb – which is more “welfare class” than “working class” – the level of engagement in schools is generally low, the absenteeism rate is quite high. This results in poor educational outcomes (as measured by programs such as Naplan, like them or loath them they are what we have). And in the bizzare world of public education, that has resulted in funding to turn those low results around. The result, for those kids that are at school, is some fantastic programs are implemented, allowing those children to achieve great things.
4. Transport links. Mounty County is at the crossroads to two of the highest volume roads in the largest city in Australia. One crosses the Western edge of the district, the other cuts between Mount Druitt and Blacktown. There is also a major rail link, which provides access to Sydney well within an hour. While we’re further out than Parramatta – it’s cheaper living, and only about ten extra minutes of travel time (which most Parramatta people will actually spend getting from home to Parramatta railway station anyway).
5. Low-cost housing. This is great, because money I’m not spending on a place to live, I can spend on my wife and kids. However, low-cost housing is a tradeoff.
6. Weather. OK so it gets hot, but hey, the Hawkesbury River isn’t far away, housing is cheap, blocks are big, and you can own a pool. It doesn’t get cold: the seven years I’ve lived in my home, I think we’ve had a frost about five times total. I think I can get cool more readily than I can get warm.
7. Sports. Mount Druitt is a bit sports mad. Druitters play so many codes of Football, we are nestled between the Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers, the Great Western Sydney Giants training facility is in the former Sydney Olympic Baseball Stadium at Rooty Hill, the former Sydney Olympic Equestrian Centre is just up the road, as is the facility where the rowing took place (in Penrith). The Soccer is not-quite national class, but does feed the A-League. Childrens’ sports facilities are all over the place, and while they are well used they are not over-used. We are within reach of a selective sports high school if our child has ability in that direction.
8. Parks. OK so they are not world class, but they are beyond “adequate” and there are plenty of them. The more they are used, the better they are looked after. Nurragingy Reserve is a great example, there are others that aren’t so developed but no doubt will be put to good use.
9. Religious diversity. A lot of Australians take it for granted, but around the world, if you’re not one of the majority you can be in real trouble. King George V of Tonga opened a church in his name in the area. With Castle Hill being just up the road, Hillsong is certainly present, as are the well established mainstream christian churches, and mosques. Missionaries passing on the word of the Mormon faith, and others waiting – patiently – to pass on the word of their God at the train station are all normal part of life.
10. Food. We’re in Australia. If it is edible, you can probably get it. Well, that’s not quite right, there are edible things that aren’t sold to be eaten in Australia, but there is no shortage of great food, and if we complain that some of it is more expensive than in other parts of Australia – it’s only by comparison within Australia. Overall, food here is cheap, there is plenty of it, and it’s good.
Things we could do better.
1. Tolerance. People could always be more tolerant. Some of us, think the whole world should be just like us, and Mounty County is an equal example of that. Racism and religious intolerance are as much trigger points of the negative press that Mount Druitt receives as any other aspect of life.
2. Food! Locally, food – other than fresh food bought to prepare at home – is pretty squarely at the bottom of the culinary food chain. If you want a gastronomic explosion, you have to travel, probably to Parramatta’s “Eat Street” (the Church Street – or is it a mall – no it’s a street again).
3. Education. Something has fallen down in the education area. Migrants seem to be engaged, but there are elements of the community that are not. It is the children of a disengaged generation who will suffer.
4. Public housing ghetto. Said it, unfortunately, because it’s true. But the policies of the past are being revisited, public housing is being redeveloped and sold to private ownership. Public housing is important, great big clusters of it just don’t work.
5. Transport. Yep, that’s right, it’s great and it sucks too. There is an addiction to cars, local families own more cars than the average across Sydney, and it’s chocking the place. I went as long as I could as a one-car family, relying on a bicycle and the train network… unfortunately I’m in the minority, and the carparks around the rail corridor are choked.
6. Crime. Blame whoever you want, but the police in the St Marys Local Area Command are far too busy. Why is it that I have both the local police station, as well as the Police Assistance Line (non life threatening emergencies) saved on my phone? Because I have used both (as well as 000) too many times in the last seven years.
7. Culture. Unfortunately, you have to travel from Mount Druitt to have a cultural experience, like visiting an art gallery, or a museum. There are events, but they are more entertainment then “cultural.”
I’m stopping at seven, because on a world scale… I’m really nitpicking to find things to complain about in Mount Druitt. Complaining rarely fixes things, being positive and championing specific improvements makes the world a better place.