Two years ago, a woman I met in Cabramatta on my very first walk suggested I visit Bonnyrigg. At last I am on my way there, looking for temples, a mosque and a heritage building.
The bus driver knows he’s late remarking that ” the man with the dog” will be cranky because of his lateness. Sure enough, as soon as the man and his black Labrador service dog are seated, he complains “You are late mate. Get a move on”.
Bonnyrigg Garden Centre
The huge range of plants, potted colour, landscaping supplies and garden ornaments are very tempting. Fortunately, I am using public transport or I’d be leaving with a boot load of plants.
Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Elizabeth Drive is a busy dual carriageway road and not particularly interesting apart from the modern orange, white and glass building of the Bonnyrigg Sports Club. The Club Sign is written in English, Asian characters and an unfamiliar alphabet which turns out to be Serbian Cyrillic.
The Bonnyrigg Sports Club was first built as a club for the Serbian Community and is now The Serbian National Centre in Australia trading as The Bonnyrigg Sports Club.
This area is actually Bonnyrigg Heights where the mostly brick homes are large and modern. White lions guard driveways, religious statues adorn the occasional garden and there are more than a few fountains in front yards. Many homes have electric entry gates.
Painted white with green trim, Bonnyrigg House which was a two storey Georgian Home and now has additions front and back, is quite different from the surrounding homes. Standing behind a wooden paling fence, the original home, the Masters House of the first Boys Orphanage in Australia, can still be seen between the additions.
Privately owned and heritage listed, it is thought to be the oldest building in Fairfield City Council. I reflect on the young orphaned boys who were housed here and wonder how well they were cared for and where they ended up.
Back across Elizabeth Drive in a grassed area lined with trees, is a memorial statue dedicated to the up to 300 000 who died in the Assyrian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire during WW1. War seems so senseless.
Temples of Bonnyrigg
Walking to the first of three Temples, I pass the Parkside Church which is a low brick building with a couple of curved walls. This Baptist Church advertises itself as a church for all nations.
Wat Phrayortkeo Dhammayanaram Lao Buddhist Temple
Next door, the Wat Phrayortkeo Dhammayanaram Lao Buddhist Temple is quite a contrast. This tall white rectangular building with a pitched roof of red and green tiles is trimmed with stripes of red and gold. Open mouthed dragons guard the flight of stairs up to the temple, their black and gold tails decorating the bannister. Tall pillars support the roof on all sides.
At first, I’m intimidated by the “No Trespassing” sign but take the plunge and walk through the gates. An old man digs weeds from between the brick paving. Women prepare food in a back hall while monks in saffron robes go about their chores. A tall gold Buddha sits cross legged beneath a decorative roof behind the temple. The nearby wall is lined with black plaques with photographs in oval frames. It is a columbarium wall for the cremated remains of loved ones.
My route to Bibbys Place takes me through Bonnyrigg Town Centre Park complete with a flying fox, sculptures, a small lake with waterbirds and a skateboard park. An older couple push a little girl on the swing. Their babysitting duty has only just started.
Bonnyrigg Turkish Mosque
Bibbys Place hosts a number of centres of worship. The Bonnyrigg Christian Church (which doubles up as the Grace Point Chinese Presbyterian Church) is next door to the Bonnyrigg Turkish Mosque. The Mosque unfortunately is closed up. I wander around outside and discover a set of rules informing visitors about Mosque Etiquette.
Amongst other things, visitors should not enter with wet feet or dirty clothing and should not enter into needless conversation. “Sisters” should not enter inappropriately dressed and should wear a headscarf. I have forgotten mine and decide to leave.
The Vietnamese Community Cultural Centre
Next door is the Vietnamese Community Cultural Centre. Within only a few hundred metres of each other I have found a Baptist Church, a Lao Buddhist Temple, a Chinese Presbyterian Church, a Turkish Mosque and a Vietnamese Cultural Centre. How extraordinary to discover such a cultural mix side by side?
Adjoining the Cultural Centre car park, a low white wall with a black pole fence between columns topped with lotus flowers surrounds a simple brick building. I wonder about it and then am distracted by a sculptural artwork. “All the World in one Place” by Marian Abboud encourages reflection on the commonalities shared between communities in one place.
Vietnamese Phap Bao Buddhist Temple
What a pity I didn’t investigate the brick building further. I later discovered that it is the Vietnamese Phap Bao Buddhist Temple, the first purpose-built Buddhist Temple in Australia.
This area I am walking through now, is rather less salubrious than Bonnyrigg Heights. The small almost identical houses are poorly maintained and rows of town houses hide behind old wooden fences. Perhaps this is social housing.
On the other side of Tarlington Reserve with its football oval and kiddy’s playground is a whole new development called Newleaf. It is a mix of social and private housing which hopes to create a vibrant community. The lovely new Bunker Park complete with basketball and handball courts is part of the Newleaf development.
Mingyue Lay Chinese Buddhist Temple
The Mingyue Lay Chinese Buddhist Temple on Cabramatta Road has an imposing entrance ‘gate’ which leads to large grassed grounds, a number of halls and pagodas.
The scent of incense fills the air. People move from place of prayer to another praying and giving offerings of fruit, cooking oil and even rice. Hundreds of tags with red and yellow tassels hang from the wishing trees, blowing in the breeze.
In one hall, a man shows me an urn (containing ashes) in one of the hundreds of golden niches whose doors are decorated with Buddha. A woman explains to me the functions of the various prayer halls and tells me about the different faces of Buddha. She suggests I visit the main hall upstairs.
There a young woman stands with her arms above her head holding two sticks of incense aloft. She bows deeply to the Buddha in front of her, repeating the action in front of the other gold Buddhas around the room. A mum with two little children, each holding an incense stick shows them how to pray and what to say as they move from one Buddha to another. A third woman is kneeling and vigorously shaking a tube of what seems to be bamboo sticks. The three main Buddhas have a red swastika painted on their chests. This Buddhist symbol represents ‘eternal cycling’.
Third Temple in Bonnyrigg
On my way to the last temple of the day I pass Bonnyrigg High School. There, a girl embarrassed at me watching her climbing a pole with her friends looking on, says “Don’t mind us Ma’am”. Then, they all collapse in uncontrollable laughter.
Along Tarlington Parade is a sad looking run-down play area decorated with Aboriginal artwork. The bench is falling apart and the grass is full of bindies which pierce my trousers as I bend to take a photo.
Vat Khemarangsaram Cambodian Buddhist Temple
At the Vat Khemarangsaram Cambodian Buddhist Temple, the last of the parishioners are preparing to leave. One tells me that had I come earlier “the monks would have opened up the Temple, but they are resting now”. The building is very similar in style to the Lao Temple that I visited today. Instead of dragons, here serpents adorn the balustrades.
Pleased to have explored Bonnyrigg
Today has been fascinating. I have visited three temples, one mosque and passed a couple of churches, all within walking distance of each other. Bonnyrigg certainly has a wonderful diversity and is well worth taking time out to explore.