I drove into Cabramatta on an overcast Sunday afternoon but was pleased to see a vibrancy that would be clear regardless of weather conditions. With chinese lanterns lining the high street, asian grocery stores and international cuisine on offer it is very apparent why the town has the nickname of Little Asia.
Many cities around the world have a china town district, but Cabramma tends to be more authentic than that as a reel sense of being in an asian country is felt. If I ever feel like going to asia in the near future I may consider a trip to Cabramatta instead – with nationalities from over 120 countries working and living in the area it is possibly even more diverse than visiting a single asian country. Indeed, if visiting for just a short period one of the “Day Trip to Asia tours” on offer in the town may be fun.
As I walk from the car to the centre, I note people relaxing and chatting sat on milk crates on the bit of grass in front of their apartment blocks. The relaxation soon disappears though as I reach the supermarkets and shops where vibrant activity is present as people shop for the evening meal and have a good conversation with each other sharing the days news.
It’s always interesting to learn a bit of a suburbs history and in this instance to try to understand why Cabramatta – with its Aboriginal coming from ‘Cabra’ which was a fresh tasty water grub, and ‘Matta’, meaning a point or jutting out piece of land – is a Little Asia?
The presence of a migrant hostel was decisive in shaping the community. In the first phase, large numbers of post-war immigrants from Europe passed through the hostel and settled in the surrounding area during the 1950s and 1960s. However the Cabramatta we see today is a result of the migrant hostel being used for a second wave of migration in the 1960s and 1970s, only this time from south-east Asia following the Vietnam War. It is this influx that has helped transform Cabramatta into the thriving Asian community we see today whilst displacing many of the previous migrant generation.
The district does have its problems, although they do appear to thankfully be receding. For instance, Cabrammata was the location of Australians first political assassination – that of NSW State MP, John Newman outside his Cabramatta home in September 1994 by nightclub owner and political rival Phuong Ngoa. The town apparently had major drug problems with the Cabramatta Railway Station became known as the “smack express”.
Cabramatta with its vast multicultural community is so different from other suburbs that, along with its name of Cabra or Little Asia, make it worth visiting just to witness first hand the rich diversity the different nationalities bring to this amazing country.