“Our community never fails to come together when needed and it is simple things like this that make me believe Western Sydney is one of the greatest places to live in Australia.”
That was the comment made by a 17 year old teenage girl from South West Sydney who responded to a survey called Young People in Greater Western Sydney – Beyond Stereotypes.
Youth Action, the peak organisation representing 1.25 million young people in NSW, carried out the survey in April.
It asked young people aged between 12 and 25 years in Greater Western Sydney: What makes you smile about where you live?
The survey received tremendous support across Greater Western Sydney with 857 young people participating.
What they said about what they loved, liked, and felt happy about when thinking of where they lived says a lot about the place two million people call home.
The survey zoomed in to the three subzones within Greater Western Sydney, including our own region, South West Sydney, where young people gave some really insightful answers to the survey questions.
More on that later, but here is a snapshot of what young people think across the entire Greater Western Sydney area:
♦ People in Western Sydney are welcoming and accepting;
♦ Western Sydney celebrates cultural diversity;
♦ Young people love the uniqueness of Western Sydney.
Youth Action partnered with experts from one of the great local institutions, Western Sydney University, to analyse the survey responses.
When the survey asked specifically for what young people felt about their South West Sydney region (Camden, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool), the responses were again mostly positive.
People made the young people of South West Sydney smile, according to the analysis of the responses.
These were the people that surrounded them: their friends and family, as well as the broader neighbourhood.
People were linked strongly with community, and community was strongly linked with place.
Place took on the dimension in South West Sydney as being associated with wide open spaces such as parks.
The beauty of the place also received attention in the survey.
Having something in common, and belonging to a place was highlighted.
The local dimensions of home and school were also important factors for young people in South West Sydney.
“What makes me smile about where I live is that my neighbourhood is very friendly. At school I have amazing friends that support me and are very close to me,’’ said a 12 year boy from South West Sydney.
Culture in South West Sydney was linked to acceptance and diversity, as in the other subregions.
Similar to Western Sydney, culture was also linked to multiculturalism, food and difference.
Again survey respondents welcomed the diversity of cultures and celebrated it.
“Our own circle of friends brings in thousands of years of different traditions, cultures and attitudes – it’s a world of love where people are learning about themselves and others,’’ said a 25 year female resident of South West Sydney.
“I think many communities are misunderstood, especially recent refugees and migrants,’’ she said.
“But once you really get to know them, they let down their guard and there’s so much that we can learn from them.’’
Family and culture were linked, and cultural harmony was discussed alongside cultural diversity.
More than the other regions, those in South West Sydney called their region home, according to the analysis of the survey responses.
Respondents associated home with security, work, and family.
Home was also linked with cultural practices, food and feeling at home.
Young people also commented on their educational opportunities, both in terms of exposing them to diversity but also the more scholarly aspects of learning.
This also included recognition of the access to educational resources for sports, arts, or enabling them to strive for excellence.
Youth Action is the peak organisation representing 1.25 million young people in NSW and youth services that support them.
Its work helps build the capacity of young people, youth workers and youth services, and they advocate for positive change on issues affecting these groups.
“Greater Western Sydney is undergoing transformative economic growth, demographic change, and major infrastructure investment that will alter the region forever,’’ Youth Action says in the report of the survey.
“In future-proofing the region – which is home to two million people – governments, policymakers, and community leaders are tasked with challenging negative stereotypes about the Greater West, and highlighting the positive stories and experiences that make the region a great place to live.
“Stories and experiences of young people demonstrate the strength of the region – which for decision makers can be leveraged to further grow the social, cultural, and economic capital of the region.
“Young people demonstrated excitement and positivity about living in Western Sydney.
“This is not to be mistaken for naivety, but rather an optimism for the hopes that they hold for the future.
“Nor does it gloss over the region’s challenges – from unemployment to infrastructure – but it does show the solid base from which a positive picture of growing up in Western Sydney can be built.
“Western Sydney is not a cultural wasteland as it is often portrayed, but is vibrant and loved, and showcases the best of Australian society.
“This powerful message from the young people who know the region best needs to be heard by Western Sydney’s decision-makers and leaders.’’
And here is some food for thought for those outsiders who love to criticise Greater Western Sydney:
“I love how supportive and protective the community is of each other, particularly when media/other parts of Sydney latch on to negative stereotypes,’’ said a 23 year South West Sydney woman who participated in the survey.