When you think of Western Sydney, you think of flannies, football and the faint fragrance of desperation. But once you get to know Western Sydney and its diverse populace, you realise that the West is not only more than just its stereotypes, it’s also less than them.
Western Sydney is Sydney’s largest region, a huge throbbing tumour perpetually growing inland from the city’s more fashionable haunts. But don’t let that theoretically negative word choice put you off: this is one tumour that’s going places. Just like Sonni Vatuvei, who makes a living as a bouncer at Club CUM, one of Sydney’s hottest nightspots, both in popular buzz and ambient temperature. “Know the best thing about being a bouncer at a gay club?” he asks. “There’s no cunts.” And there, in a nutshell, is the Western Sydney joie de vivre. Many might be surprised that a Westerner is so open to alternative lifestyles, but that’s the New West – it’s open to anyone, regardless of sexuality or race or hygiene.
Toolio Runamuckas is symbolic of the enormous cultural diversity to be found in Western Sydney, and the opportunities that the region offers. In some of the more hidebound areas of the metropolis, Toolio may have found himself falling into a staid traditional career path like law or medicine or asbestos manufacture. Instead, the freedom offered by the West’s frontier spirit allowed him to follow twin paths based on his innate abilities. As a pokie player and sign spinner, he’s living the dream on two fronts. He’s taken his opportunities with both hands, and is living proof that if you can find a system that works for you, it doesn’t matter whether you fit into society’s narrow boxes. In the same way, Western Sydney itself doesn’t fit into Sydney’s narrow boxes, but nevertheless, it thrives, and not just because of cheap housing: it’s also community.
Chase Burns is a taxi driver, but he’s more than that: he’s a cultural ambassador. Preaching the gospel of the speedway, you can tell he truly loves cars and all the benefits they’ve brought to humanity. “Of course I love cars!” he says, face shining with the kind of radiance that comes from being born into the automotive lifestyle. Western Sydney was built on the back of men like Chase, men who were willing to get inside cars and drive them to wherever their friends needed to go. Thanks to that drive for exploration, Chase is today making a contribution to the civic life of Western Sydney that should be neither over nor underrated.
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