Safety (or at least perceptions of it) has often been a hot button topic around Parramatta. When I first moved here in 2012 there was a real stigma attached to the area with lots of people I knew at the time asking the question – did I really know what I was doing? Didn’t I know it was unsafe to live there? Don’t you hear all that stuff in the news?
I’d often ask these people, “Have you ever been to Parramatta?” “Have you been to any of the events here?” “Ever been to Eat Street?” the answer was typically a resounding, echoing, cricket-chirping no. And what that says to me is that there is a real media haze, a storm around what it actually means to be living in Western Sydney and perceptions of Parramatta as a suburb. And I know that a lot of that is fuelled by the media.
As a resident of Parramatta, I have seen some incredible change in this city in the past 4 years, the biggest element of which is the ways in which the city has grown to be more “liveable”. OMG, how buzz-wordy is that! But what I mean by that is that there are better ways to interact with the city outside of working hours. One of the biggest issues that I saw when I first moved to Parramatta was travelling at night. I spent a lot of my weekends going back and forth from Parramatta to the city, coming home at weird hours to a neighbourhood with a distinct lack of nightlife, sporadic lighting and a long walk home alone.
That is no longer the case. As part of Parramatta growing, changing and developing, the interactions with the area at night are also changing. Things like the increase in night events, Parramatta Lanes and Winterlight (which is being held again in 2016), means that now there are always people around at night walking home with their families, travelling on busses and trains back to their homes – wherever that might be.
As part of the expansion of these evening events, the City of Parramatta has installed probably around 100 more street lights, all across Parramatta and surrounding suburbs. No matter where you walk, there are beautiful bright LED lights guiding you home. There isn’t a woman (or man for that matter) worth their salt who wants to be walking home in the dark, alone. That’s true no matter where you live.
By creating a more active night life in Parramatta, there are always people walking around between different areas like the train station and Eat Street as well as over to The Albion. I feel it’s easier and safer for me to get home from Parramatta to my house than it is to get from the City back home. There is better surveillance in Parramatta because there are so many more people around which means no matter where you go, there’s always someone around. That makes me feel safer. Studies done by the City suggest that I’m not the only one who agrees, with around 80% of people in the city valuing CCTV in the CBD.
I think that one of the biggest issues we face as people living in a society that is constantly connected to media is that the people writing for those media channels don’t know our suburbs and what it is like to live as a local here. They live in their eastern suburb apartment, having never been any further west than Strathfield (because it’s a hub) – they just assume and dramatise anything that happens in Western Sydney.
This is a major part of the issue that Katrina James of The Westies works towards – in challenging what it means to be from Western Sydney and in presenting the beautiful, broad, amazing range of people who live in these areas. And I am not at all trying to make a case for an “us against them” all-out war, but I am asking the journo’s and news readers to present an accurate, honest and unbiased view of this side of Sydney that we love so much.
If you are interested to know more about the different safety measures that the City are introducing, then please read the report from a survey of local residents here. If you want to be one of those local residents surveyed, you can sign up for the City of Parramatta ‘Our City Your Say’ survey program, which allows local residents to let their voices be heard on a number of different issues that affect us locally.
This post is sponsored by the City of Parramatta and the ‘Our City Your Say’ program. All thoughts, opinions and stories are my own, but all images are courtesy of the City of Parramatta. For more information on sponsored content, please email firstname.lastname@example.org