Third stop: Cabramatta
Cabramatta is the logical end-point of the multiculturalism of Australian society: if this is where we end up, then I'm happy. It is a suburb in which the lingua franca is either Chinese or Vietnamese, the smells are like those that waft through the streets of Saigon and the architecture seems like that of Asian societies seeking to dispell the lingering colonial influence.
After stepping off the train, it's only a short walk to Freedom Plaza, the commercial centre of Cabramatta. Above it rises an archway like that of so many Chinatowns around the world, whilst to the side a series of concrete wildlife keep a careful, if somewhat static, watch over things. The shops have a let-it-all-hang-out approach, with wildly chaotic and random collections of things for sale spilling out the door, often quite literally.
The supposed crime and drugs which has ravaged Cabramatta are no where to be seen, at least not just before lunch on a Monday afternoon. It's hard to believe that this is the cause of Australia's only political assassination in nearly three decades. With few exceptions, people seem to be peaceful, with the only piece of nastiness coming in the form of a particularly nasty bogan mullet. Although the cliche is of Cabramatta as little Saigon, there are a variety of ethnic influences from all over Asia, with a Thai, Lao, Cambodian, Chinese and Filipino influence all being felt.
Cabramatta is also home to a Police and Community Youth Centre, a peculiarly New South Welsh concept. Although a little shabby and rundown, the centre provides some decent sporting facilities aimed and keeping wayward youth on the straight and narrow. It's hard to argue with a concept that seems to have worked, no matter how soft and fuzzy it might appear at first glance.
Finally on the journey was a visit to the Cabramatta War Memorial, dedicated particularly to the Vietnam War. It's an unusual message that inspires the memorial, focussing on the comradary between the Australian and South Vietnamese soldiers. Given the demographics of the area, that are much more likely to be decendants of the latter category rather than the former who are paying a visit.