opinion

"The moment I found out I was a 'bogan'."

Growing up in Western Sydney, I couldn’t have been happier.

The Hawkesbury was – and still is – my own little world.

I attended a pre-school down my street, a public school around the corner, and a high school just a few blocks away.

I stood beside friends from pre-school at high school graduation. Everyone really did know everyone.

Weekends were spent swimming in the Hawkesbury River, eating ice cream in Windsor’s historic Thomspon Square, and riding our bikes through the local nature reserves.

I was proud of where I lived and I was truly adamant that one day, I would own my own home in the Hawkesbury region.

I was proud of – and content with – my Hawkesbury heritage.

Windsor
Windsor in the Hawkesbury region – historic, beautiful and home. Image: Supplied.

Then I encountered Sydney. And snobbery...

Suddenly I realised, after 21 years of naive bliss, that I should be ashamed of where I came from.

After all, apparently living in Western Sydney made me uncultured, unintelligent and all-round undesirable.

Embarking on university life in Ultimo and Surry Hills, I began to gather quite the collection of charming responses to my 'infamous' Western Sydney postcode.

POST CONTINUES BELOW: Has the word 'bogan' been reclaimed? 

Each and every time I met someone new – a student, a co-worker, a tutor, I was asked the same questions...

"What do you even do for fun there?!"

"I bet it's very dangerous to walk around at night..."

"So, when are you going to move away from the West?"

"You're pretty smart. Isn't everyone from Western Sydney dumb?"

"Eww, really?"

The fear of reactions like these led me to start lying about where I came from.

Over time, I found ways to avoid revealing just how "west" I am.

I would use ambiguous locations, like, "just past the hills". And I knew never to mention suburbs like Windsor, Penrith or Blacktown when describing my location because I'd been shown that being a 'Westie' was something to be ashamed of.

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Western Sydney Definition
Even Urban Dictionary seems to agree... Image via Urban Dictionary.

Who'd want to be a stupid, undesirable bogan?

I would opt instead for more "desirable" Western locations – think Castle Hill, the Blue Mountains, and Rouse Hill.

Every city and postcode has reputations and stereotypes that are imprinted on its residents. But in the West, we are tainted from birth, like a true blue Westie's 'Aussie Pride' bicep tattoo.

But the truth is, postcode prejudice really does exist. For example, at the time of the release of SBS's controversial Struggle Street, the ABC reported stories of Western Sydney residents who had to fake their postcodes on resumes to get a job.

At a time where I'm starting to think about life after university, postcode prejudice definitely adds to my stress.

Will I be able to land a media job with my postcode weighing heavy on my shoulders?

Or should I just stay at home, and live out the life Sydney seems to think I have in the West?

Even if I do land a job, how many jokes about stabbings will I have to endure?!

No, thanks. Where I live and have grown shouldn’t define how society views me. Nor should it define my self-worth.

People who discriminate against the West and its residents fail to recognise the benefits my friends and I enjoyed growing up in that tight-knit community. I have fond memories of growing up in the West. I have met beautiful people from all walks of life, and had a childhood that was just as fulfilled and happy as any other child in Sydney.

But if being from and living in the West means being shamed with the bogan, westie brush, then so be it. Call me bogan all you like – I’m proud of where I come from. And if you can’t beat it, you may as well embrace it.

READ MORE:

Expert says a ‘bogan’ baby name could stop you from landing the job you want.

The ‘best bogan baby names’ of 2016 are here.

You can listen to the most recent episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here. 

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