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Dark green brick wall of toilet block - Andy Warhol image of Marilyn affixed to brown door in centre; signs for Ladies and Men along with council sign about their good works

Empty Lawns and Lightly Trafficked Footpaths

A Sunday Adventure in Suburban Peakhurst

I rolled a die to select the category of this week’s Sunday Adventure and landed on Visit a Random Suburb. Then, based on having last week visited Parramatta, the next suburb alphabetically is Peakhurst. I have to have rules to drive these things – weird as they may be, they work for me. So it is that today I’m off to Peakhurst – a suburb which, as best as I know, I’ve never visited before.

 

When I told a friend I was going to Peakhurst for my Sunday adventure she said, “Why? There’s nothing there.”

 

There is nothing there and I was strangely excited to go see it – this suburban nothingness.

 

An acknowledgment of country

 

My Sunday Adventure today takes place on what I believe are the traditional lands of the Bidjigal and Gameygal peoples of the Eora nation. At the 2016 Census, there were 110 people, or 1%, of the residents of Peakhurst, claiming Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage – in NSW it was 2.9% and across Australia 2.8%.

 

Let the adventure begin … in Hurstville and on a red vinyl bus seat

 

My route to Peakhurst takes me through Hurstville – which, I think, is one of the suburbs with the highest proportion of Chinese-born residents in all of Australia. I haven’t been here in a while and have a little time to fill before my bus. I walk up and down Forest Road. The place feels vibrant and energetic. There is also a lot of good-looking food. Tempting food. But I am saving my hunger for Peakhurst.

 

Chinese barbeque duck hanging in window with signs in Chinese
Tempting but today is not about Hurstville, another time.

 

I’ve never been on a Punchbowl Bus Company operated bus before – they have red vinyl seats – which I like. The #943 bus carries me to my appointment with nothingness. On board there is a middle-aged man, who has the veneer of a bit of a tough guy. He’s making conversation with an elderly woman – they both seem to be very much enjoying their chat. It’s kind of lovely.

 

As we drive, I realise there is a bit more in Peakhurst than Google Maps led me to expect – a pub I hadn’t discovered, a bakery. It’s a good reminder that Google Maps isn’t reality and that sometimes you just have to go exploring to see what’s there.

 

I had spotted @ The Corner on the maps ahead of time, and it is my first stop.

 

It’s light-filled and lovely – the decor is sort of rustic, in a good way – with cool lighting over a central table. The coffee is good, and the Nutella filled French toast is delicious, decadent, and a little bit too much.

 

Shot looking down on a plate with nutella filled french toast with ice cream
Nutella filled French toast with banana cream, caramelized banana, white chocolate pistachio shards and salted pistachio ice cream

 

A mother and her adult son are at the neighbouring table. They are discussing the travels of a woman, “she’s in Iran, someplace between Tehran and the Armenian border. From there she’s going to Georgia and then Turkey.” The rest of the details I can’t quite catch but I like that bit of cosmopolitanism in the deep recesses of quiet Sydney suburbia. It is unexpected and I like it.

 

There are other shops near the café – a mixed business, two beauty-related salons, a butcher and an Asian take away. None of which I had noticed on Google Maps. Not that they are especially interesting – it’s more that they are here when I didn’t expect anything.

 

The closed front door of Mick's Gourmet Meats - with a map of Australia overlayed with an Australian flag 'Proudly supporting Aussie farmers'
Mick’s Gourmet Meats is in the same little group of shops as @ The Corner

 

I follow Forest Road towards Henry Lawson Drive looking at this suburban place around me. And it is very suburban. It has that feel of a place that cannot exist but in connection to a large city while having only the most necessary connections to that city. It feels a place unto itself, but it wouldn’t be here if the people who live here couldn’t rely on big city jobs to fund their lives.

 

It’s quiet. The sun shines on empty lawns and lightly trafficked footpaths. I spot two different people, sitting in the sun, in their garages, reading. There is someone gardening. But, mostly, the place is light on the human presence. Cars pass and sulphur-crested cockatoos natter among themselves.

 

The 1968 red brick façade of Our Lady Fatima glows warmly in the late afternoon sun while the rinks at the neighbouring Club Grandviews bowlo sit idle (but well kept). The park behind, Gannons, is mostly under construction but a street artist has deployed Andy Warhol Marilyns on the forest green ablutions block. A few kids and parents circle the park on bicycles and scooters.

 

Late 1960s red brick church framed by banksia and a green bush
Our Lady Fatima

 

Empty rinks before the Grandviews Bowling Club
No one bowling this arvo

 

I make my way into residential side streets working in a generally northwesterly route – catching occasional glimpses of Salt Pan Creek – a tributary of Georges River. There is a mix of older houses – some well-kept and others less so – and more modern homes. There are a lot of utes and work vehicles. Some kids on bicycles. Some adults coming and going from cars or doing yard work. But, mostly, very quiet.

 

I stumble upon the Peakhurst West Swim Club and a colourful and busy fruit and veg shop before taking the Lawson’s Westside Walk footbridge over Henry Lawson Drive and meandering towards Peakhurst Park. Here, there are kids in the playground and parents kicking soccer balls with bigger kids; a group of five young men are having a batting session in the cages. I find one of their cricket balls far from where they are gathered and throw it back to them. I haven’t thrown a ball in yonks and it feels good.

 

And then, I’m done.

 

I walk to Riverwood Station and catch a train home.

 

Red roofed home behind a high and precisely trimmed hedge
Peakhurst vibe

 

Decorative kookaburra figures perched on an entry to a yellow home
Peakhurst vibe #2

 

Peakhurst is 17.3 kilometres (10.7 miles) from my home.

 

I took the M30 from King Street, Newtown to Railway Square and transferred to a T4 train to Hurstville; there I joined a 943 bus operated by Punchbowl Bus Company which delivered me to Forest Road before Henry Lawson Drive and I walked back a block or so to @ The Corner.

 

 

Peakhurst is in the Georges River Council local government area, the State electorate of Oatley (Mark Coure, Liberal), and the Federal Division of Banks (David Coleman, Liberal).

 

In the 2017 Same-Sex Marriage Postal Survey, 80% of Banks voters participated with 45% voting Yes, and 55% No. New South Wales voted 58% Yes, 42% No, nationally it was 62% Yes, 38% No. This is the first time since that postal survey, in my beach visits and Sunday adventures, where I’ve visited an electorate which voted No. Frankly, it taints the whole place for me – knowing 55% of the voters here would deny others the basic human right of marrying the person they love. Ugh.

 

What the 2016 Census says about Peakhurst

 

In the 2016 Census, 10,539 people called Peakhurst home.

 

The median weekly household income was $1514, median mortgage repayment $2200 per month and median rent $440 per week.

 

The most common ancestries in Peakhurst were Australian 18.9%, English 17.9%, Chinese 11.4%, Irish 6.5% and Greek 4.8%.

 

Sixty-five per cent of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were China 6.9%, New Zealand 1.9%, England 1.9%, Lebanon 1.6% and Egypt 1.5%.

 

Nearly 50% (46.6%) reported that both their parents had been born overseas – almost 10 points higher than NSW (37%) and 12 points higher than Australia as a whole (34.4%). The most popular religious affiliation is Catholic (25.3%), followed by No Religion (19.6%), Anglican (13.9%), and Eastern Orthodox (9.6%).

 

Almost 60% of people only spoke English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Mandarin 6.6%, Cantonese 5.4%, Arabic 5.2%, Greek 4.6% and Macedonian 2.8%.

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