As part of 10 Stories from Bankstown, Bankstown City Council’s Community Harmony project, Tag interviews 51 year old Lorraine Kozlowski who has lived in the Bankstown area all her life. Lorraine teaches at Wiley Park Girls’ High School, the same school she attended as a student.
What changes have you noticed in the Bankstown area?
I’ve been here over 50 years. I’ve noticed that the population has increased and there’s a lot more people from other countries, so it’s more multicultural. I really like that there’s a greater range of shops that sell really nice food. The type of housing has changed, there’s a lot more flats. I’ve noticed a lot of old houses get pulled down and they put new houses up … quite expensive ones … so there’s a lot of rebuilding. I remember when they opened Roselands which was the first shopping centre like that in Australia.
Then Bankstown Square was built, so the shopping is really good in the area. When I first lived here as a little girl everyone thought Greenacre was a long way from the city and now people tell you how lucky you are to live so close to the city. I think the Olympics were good because people realised what a central place Bankstown is. This was considered to be a pretty crumby area, a lot of people lived here who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. Now a lot of people choose to live here as well.
Have you noticed any bad things about the Bankstown area lately?
No, I think in all areas you notice things like more pollution, more rubbish, and there’s a lot more traffic. People don’t drive as if they’re in areas where people live and where kids run around the streets. I think that’s a bad thing and that people should drive around the area more safely. I still feel safe living here. I don’t feel that this area is any more dangerous than any other area. There’s a lot of really nice people who live here and I wouldn’t stay here if I didn’t like it.
Do you reckon the news is making out that crime in Bankstown is more than you see?
I actually think a lot of people are ignorant, they don’t know. They say things about migrants, they say things about various racial groups and they really don’t understand. They are almost scared of the unknown so they don’t bother learning what really does happen.
I think the media is looking to sell newspapers and they always turn against somebody. They have various turns, like when September 11 came up, they go against the people who did the bombing, then it’s the refugees and next week it will be men, or the Government or something else. Papers always look to blame someone. Everywhere you go there’s increased crime rates, more drugs, more violence … I don’t think this area’s any worse.
Have you noticed any racism in the area?
I have actually noticed what you would call reverse-racism. My husband used to jog around the streets of Greenacre and quite often he has been harassed by groups of boys. He looks Anglo-Saxon when in fact he’s from a migrant background as well.
I think that there are people around here that are racist, and I think that’s mainly due to the fact that they’re ignorant. When they get information and get to know people, then that goes away. So, I think education plays a really important role. Because I’ve worked at Wiley Park (Girls’ High School), I’ve bothered to learn about other cultures so that I understand the girls’ culture better. It is not so scary when you have a deeper understanding.
If you had a choice to move out of Bankstown where would you go?
After 50 years I wouldn’t want to leave where I’m living. I’ll stay here until I get really old and decide to retire, (even then) I’ll probably still stay here. I live here because I want to, not because I have to.
My son and his wife just bought a house in Picnic Point … that’s in the Bankstown area. He’s lived here all his life and didn’t move very far. Quite a few friends that he grew up with in Greenacre are buying houses around the Bankstown area as well. They want to stay close to family and they see it as a good place to live.
What was important to you when you were growing up?
In my family there were two daughters and my father was very keen that we should get an education, but that was fairly unusual in those days, if you were a girl. They just thought you should get married. A lot of fathers thought like that, and even mothers, so my father was very adamant that I get a good education and have a good job, and progress in that way.
Was respect an issue?
Yes. I think we’re losing that a bit, there’s a tendency for young people not to listen as much. I think parents nowadays leave teaching things like respect to schools or to other people … they don’t think it’s their job to do it. I actually think that if you come from a family where your family respects you, and where you respect each other, and where you are taught manners, then I think you will have respect and manners.
What has been passed on to you from your parents that is precious?
To treat people like I find them … they’ve taught me that. To respect other people, to value what you do, that what you do should make you happy, not rich. A bit of both is nice, but family is really important. I’ve got three kids, and a grandchild and that’s my life … my family … and that, I think, was taught to me by my parents.
Do you think schools nowadays have changed since you went to school?
They have, they’re different … better probably. I think kids are taught to speak out for themselves more. I think they’re taught to think better. They’re noisier and naughtier. Kids that come to school today that are willing to learn, finish school much better equipped for life than I would have, say, when I was at school. I think of things that our girls do here (at school), like debating, or mock trials, and work placements, and I would never have been brave enough to do that when I was at school. So they’re doing a lot more of that stuff and they’re very good at it.
Do you think girls are stronger (in spirit) than they used to be?
I think girls especially are a lot stronger. Girls today realise you don’t really need to have a man to feel like you’re a person. You can actually go through life and have a career, friends and live your life, instead of (the attitude) “If you don’t have a boyfriend, you should kill yourself”. I think most girls today think, “Well, I don’t have a boyfriend but that’s because I choose not to pick up some dropkick. He’s not good enough for me”. There are still girls who are like that … got to have a boy … and it doesn’t matter how he treats her, but a lot of girls have more respect for themselves and are stronger.