Honi Soit Writing Competition

Crossing Casula

Take a detour to this South Western suburb you've never heard of

Map of Casula Artwork by Annie Zhang

Casula as a suburb can be described as the runt of the litter. Its significance in the Western Suburbs is often dwarfed by its more renowned, older siblings — Liverpool, Glenfield and Cabramatta. Liverpool is often stereotyped frequently for its extraordinary number of welfare recipients, Glenfield for having a large, multi-platform train station, and Cabramatta, the once crime capital of Sydney in the late 70’s and 80’s, has reformed into a bustling Pan-Asian cultural hub. Casula, however, has nothing to offer. When peers at university question where I live, responding simply with “Casula” all too often elicits a completely blank face, followed by a “where’s that?” My usual response is to mention the more famous — or rather infamous — suburbs in my vicinity until they formulate a rough idea of where Casula is. Throughout my four years on campus and the hundreds of people I have met and conversed with on campus, I can count the number of people who knew where Casula is right off the bat on one hand.

My Street

Much of my childhood was spent on the stretch of asphalt road immediately in front of my house. I played soccer and tips with the Croatian kids next door until the sun went down. Over time, my parents gradually limited the amount of time I was allowed to play outside in order to shift my focus to studying, first for the OC test and then the selective test. My failure to be admitted into either made all that work seem fruitless to me.

Casula Public School

Racial divisions in my primary school were interesting. If you were white, you were “Australian.” If you had brown skin, you were Indian (even if you weren’t). If you were Asian, then you were Chinese. Any nuances were totally thrown out the window. Kids would often run up to me and ask in an overly sarcastic tone as if they already knew the answer “what does dolma [đụ má] mean?” Puzzled I would reply, “I don’t know, that doesn’t sound like Chinese to me.” They would then reply with absolute certainty, “Well it means fuck you.” I would reflect on my Chinese vocabulary thinking to myself, I’ve spoken Chinese since birth and I’ve never heard of this term. This issue plagued me until high school that I discovered it wasn’t a Chinese phrase, but a Vietnamese one.

Casula High School

A high school of apparent ill repute. My mum was shocked to learn that during my Year 6 orientation at the school I had seen cigarettes, syringes and beer bottles all within the school toilets. See, unlike most other Asians in my cohort who successfully secured placements in selective schools, I failed to gain admission into any selective school. My local high school became a very viable option, or perhaps, my only viable option. After the orientation, however, my mum promptly enrolled me in the local catholic school, fearing that sending her son to the local school would doom his future.

Casula Mall

The only shopping mall that was within walking distance of my high school. Unlike many other high schools located within the Inner city or near huge shopping malls, Casula mall only had a handful of shops, Coles, Aldi, the local Butcher and a food court. I never realised just how small it was until I began attending Uni. It seemed perfectly sufficient for the after school hangouts that we had back then. Once school ended at 3.05, large troupes of students would leave school located inside a residential suburb and begin the daily pilgrimage to Casula Mall.

Casula station

When I was little, my local station was notorious for muggings, stabbings and shady dealings. Before the advent of the Opal card system, you had to purchase a ticket either from a ticket machine or a ticket vendor. Casula Station, however, was so shady that it had neither — there was no way to purchase a ticket at the station. Whenever we had to go there to take the train, my mum would always tell me to hold her hand tightly and stick by her side or else I would be kidnapped. I did not have fond memories there to say the least.

Hume Highway

Three lanes wide, the Hume is lined with used car dealerships and shopfronts on the left, whilst the right features an extensive sea of residential houses and the occasional motel. My first driving lesson happened here, with my mum screaming at me in the front seat on the stretch of highway heading home. Due to the deficiencies of public transport infrastructure in Casula, most people at my school obtained their ps in Year 11 or 12. I was amongst the last of my friends to get my Ps, only obtaining it at the ripe old age of 18.

Casula Woolworths

Casula Woolworths features a return-and-earn bottle recycling station that gives you ten cents for every bottle or can recycled. Families are always queueing up in front of it with giant plastic bags, each filled to the brim with reeking soda cans and beer bottles. The teamwork really is quite extraordinary; one person is responsible for depositing the cans into the machine, whilst the other will be heaving additional bags off their vehicles and dragging them over so they won’t lose their place in the line.