Our city: complex, cultural

THE Goulburn I grew up in was certainly a different place to the welcoming city it is today. Back in the 1970s and 80s the city seemed like a very white Anglo-Saxon Christian place (apart from a small number of Greek and Italian families) and it sure felt xenophobic at times.
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But the city has changed a lot over the last 20 years. There are now many cultures living in harmony here.

It is developing a unique and complex identity. I don’t know what a ‘typical’ Goulburn person is anymore? Is there such a thing?

An example of what I am talking about happened last weekend when Mike Shepherd and his family (now my family through marriage) threw open their farm “Gunningbar”, 20km out on the Range Road, to Goulburn families and a few busloads of the African and Burmese families.

These are the people we often see walking around town, but maybe never meaningfully engage with. There is something about being on a farm (and that one in particular) that brings people together – that gives strangers to space to connect with each other – even for just a few moments or in a random conversation in broken English.

Maybe it is being out of the city? Maybe it is the conviviality of the hosts? Maybe it is the unobstructed view to the horizon and the realisation of the vast space this country still has? That we either connect with each other or go mad?

Whatever it is – it was a great afternoon for everyone as they let their guards down and got to know each other a bit through simple country pleasures like collecting eggs, riding on a tractor or making damper over a fire.

The African dancing, singing and drumming – along with didgeridoo – were a treat and had everyone moving regardless of age or culture (except for me – uncoordinated individual that I am).

Outside the shearing shed, young people were having their own hip hop dancing competition, with music supplied by an iPhone.

A few African and Burmese youngsters were also playing touch footy with a style that would impress anyone.

They showed lightning pace and good ball skills. The Goulburn Men’s Shed generously donated their time to cook sausages that fed the masses – as well as share their good-natured, blokey yarns.

There were also a few ‘economic refugees’ from Canberra. I got talking to a lady who had recently moved to Goulburn from Canberra because she couldn’t afford to buy a house in Canberra.

She commutes to Canberra to every day to work, like many others.

She said the virtues of this city were its friendliness, lifestyle, and cost of living (apart from petrol).

She reckoned Goulburn had all the services she needed, including good health services. She said she found it much easier to access a doctor in Goulburn than in Canberra.

The only things she said she missed were the big department stores for shopping. But there seems to be enough of those wanting to come here too now.

Let’s just hope we don’t have to lose half of Verner St for Big W to come here, because our heritage buildings and even those buildings that aren’t “heritage listed” but have been there for 50 to 60 years, are part of what gives Goulburn its unique character too.

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