Sri Ganesh Selections

Toongabbie: Sydney’s ‘Little Sri Lanka’

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A Self-Guided Walk in Toongabbie

Download the Walking Map and Notes

Toongabbie, a suburb in western Sydney, wasn’t a place I’d considered exploring. However, when a friend discovered a Sri Lankan community in Toongabbie, she suggested I take a look. So, here I am, on the train looking forward to exploring Sydney’s ‘Little Sri Lanka’.

Toongabbie Village

As I step off the train, a tall African woman, hair simply braided and wearing layers of blankets over a long straight patterned skirt steps on. Not quite what I was expecting.

Messy graffiti spoils the facades facing the station. Shops are closed (granted, it is early) and weeds predominate in the small grassed area of a little pocket park. My overall feeling is that life may be tough here in Toongabbie.

Surya Supermarket Toongabbie

Find Sri Lankan Produce Here

Street art in Toongabbie

Street Art this time not Graffiti

Different Cultures

Rusty coloured autumn leaves drift across the brown brick path. A chalk board outside the Toongabbie hotel promotes cheap schnitzel, pizza and steak. Opposite the hotel, faded signage advertises Sri Lankan cuisine (with Indian and Malaysian).

The presence of a pawn broker confirms my initial impression that things are tough here. And then there’s the service for sending money overseas, common in areas where new migrants first settle.

Sri Lankan Shopping

Sri Ganesh Selections sells traditional clothing and pooja items, pooja being a Hindu prayer ritual involving offerings and prayers. The shop will open later, and I content myself with peering through the window at the colourful saris, and traditional menswear.

Home in Toongabbie

May make way for Units

Home in Toongabbie

Simple Home

The Surya Supermarket, across the street from Portico Plaza with its Woolworths and Gloria Jeans draws me inside to inspect shelves of food, and other products familiar to immigrants from the Indian subcontinent.

A shrine rests on a sill on the wall behind the till. The refrigerated cabinet displays varieties of Indian sweets including my favourite, barfi. Boxes of incense fill one shelf, bags of rice and flour occupy another section.

Besides the halal butcher in Portico Plaza, there’s a variety store, and florist. Nothing too exciting. What is interesting is how many shops display signs warning that surveillance cameras are in use.

Streets of Toongabbie

Back on the street, a little cottage is ‘under negotiation’. Built on a large block of land, developers are likely to demolish the cottage and build a row of terraces or a unit block as they are doing over the road.

I chat to a man who works for the “Bark Blower”. He’s monitoring twenty tonnes of soil being blown from the back of his truck through a black pipe up to planter boxes on the top floor of the new units. A second truck stands idle, filled with another twenty tonnes.

Next, I notice a thin older woman wearing a sari waiting at the portico entrance of a group of terraces. A car pulls up and she steps in.

Superman was here

Is this yours?

Girraween Park

Girraween Park

Girraween Park

My route passes through Girraween Park. At the entrance to the park, Boronia Multicultural Services occupies a small brick building. A registered charity, they support families of refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Smoke hangs heavy in the air from recent back burning while dog walkers stride briskly around the playing fields. On a table near the gas BBQ are two clean pots, a couple of plates and bag of rolls, but there’s no one in attendance.

A man wearing a broad brimmed straw hat smiles and says “Hello”.  He’s walking a medium sized long-haired white dog, which he tells me is a Japanese snow dog. We chat briefly about the dog and then part ways.

House in Toongabbie

Another Home

Blue shutters

Window Dressing

In the grounds of Seventh Day Adventist Church, a woman wearing a head scarf tied around the top of her head and a loose floral housecoat digs a garden bed.

Along Girraween Creek

Turning off the road, I follow the path to Girraween Creek. Trees line the dual cycle/pedestrian pathway and metal fencing provides privacy for the homes backing onto the creek. Shallow water trickles slowly along the narrow man altered channel. Doves coo softly in the trees.

A woman whose baby is due in a few weeks offers me help with directions. I don’t need help, but take the opportunity to chat. Her mother whose hair, plaited in a single braid reaching down her bare back to a beautiful silky green sari has come to support her once the baby is born.

Girraween Creek

Smoke in the air

Units in Toongabbie

A New Unit Block

“Mama’s Pizza and Hoppers Hut” on a corner near the railway line, caters a mix of cultures.

Settler’s Walk

There’s no signpost, but the Settler’s Walk starts from the railway line. Apparently, the land that Settlers Walk passes through was a Government Farm for eleven years (from 1792). It was the Third Settlement of Australia (after Sydney and Parramatta).

Settler's Walk

Part of Settler’s Walk

Abandoned Trolley

The only rubbish en route

This side of railway line has a different, more settled feel. The mostly brick houses, single storey and not overly large, are bigger and sit in established gardens with neatly trimmed lawns.

Men and women in blue uniforms stand in groups or singly, their bowls and white jacks scattered across three busy bowling greens. While bowling clubs all over Sydney are closing down, this one appears to be thriving.

Tooongabbie Creek

The path continues through an open grassed area under power lines. Trees and bush line Toongabbie creek which runs parallel to the path. Bell birds call to each other in the distance and a wagtail struts his stuff in the grass nearby.

Alongside Settler's Walk

Houses back onto Settler’s Walk

Beware of Magpies

Beware

While I happily walk the shared cycle/pedestrian pathway, later I discover a dirt track in the bush alongside the creek. This track would have been even better.

Back to Toongabbie Station

Leaving Settler’s Walk where it joins the Pemulwuy Loop, I walk along a quiet and pleasant street. There’s a relaxed feel. There are few fences and where there are fences, they are low and unobtrusive. I startle a lorikeet feeding in a tall old bottle brush. He circles me, squawking low past my head, settling in the next tree.

The tennis courts at the Toongabbie Leisure Centre are tired. Weeds push through the neglected surface. Approaching the train station, the environment changes subtly. Houses are less well maintained, the gardens messy.

Toongabbie Creek

More of Settler’s Walk

Pods on Settler's Walk

Catching the light

Things are Different Now

Children play on the equipment in the little neglected park that I walked through earlier this morning. Women in traditional colourful clothing sit side by side on benches watching the children and passing the time of day. Similarly, a smaller group of men wearing shirts and trousers in neutral shades chat amongst themselves.

My initial impression of this little park has completely changed. Here is community unseen in many suburbs of Sydney.

A Sri Lankan Meal

While many of the food establishments offer a mixture of Sri Lankan, Malaysian and Indian meals, I choose to eat at Chef Ceylon which only serves Sri Lankan food. Like its neighbours, the main trade is in take away, but there are a few tables at the back.

The lunch special is a meat with three vegetable dishes and roti or rice. Unfortunately, the traditional hoppers are only available after 5pm. Bravely (a wrong move it turns out), I decide not to worry about the ‘heat’ and choose dishes I haven’t tried before – goat, ladies’ fingers, capsicum and beetroot. Tasty, with a hint of coconut, the meal is pleasant, but the goat and ladies’ fingers too hot for me.

Toongabbie House

Note the egg boxes

House in Toongabbie

Replaced a cottage

Thoughts on Toongabbie

Toongabbie, once the third Australian settlement, these days could easily be called Little Sri Lanka. The people meeting in the small park, the grocery store and the numerous eateries all point to a community making a new life in their adopted country.

If you enjoyed exploring Sydney’s Little Sri Lanka, you’ll enjoy discovering Cabramatta and its Vietnamese community, Blacktown which is a real melting pot, but the Ethiopian meals are a great reason to visit, and Harris Park, Sydney’s Little India.
Next Stop: Gymea

Useful information:

Toongabbie is 30km west of the Sydney CBD

It is easy to get to Toongabbie by train. Plan your trip at transportnsw.info

For Settler’s Walk and other walks (including the Pemulwuy Loop) , follow this link.

Walking Map and Notes

This is the map I followed. You can download it here. Use it together with these notes. Please note, the time indicated on the map doesn’t allow for stopping and looking around. I took about 4 hours including lunch.

Walking map of Toongabbie

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Comments

  1. I had not heard of Toongabbie before reading your excellent review. It’s refreshing to read about new places and nice to see they have a “Paynless Dental” should I develop a need in that area.

    1. Author

      Nice to hear from you again, Albert. It’s fun finding new places isn’t it?

  2. Seems like a rough neighborhood…….with a superhero missing his uniform!
    Toonngabbie creek looks nice and the food options sound great.

    1. Author

      Hopefully superhero has found his uniform and peace will reign. Thanks Bernadette.

      1. Toongabbie as the 3rd settlement has many beautiful old homes and all homes are on good size blocks. The area you visited around the train line is the worst part, as is the case in any suburb. Our Sri Lankan population are gentle and friendly, and we feel lucky to have so many tasty food options. Toongabbie has many well cared for parks and trees abound. We have excellent transport choices and Parramatta business district, Parramatta Lake and Hills district all a short drive. A lot of large new homes are being built and changing the old suburbs landscape. I love that I can walk to shops, restaurants, cafes schools, library, gym, club and swimming pool. We also have bike tracks everywhere. Life is certainly not tough in Toongabbie.

        1. Author

          Thanks for your input, Glenda, particularly for adding your local information about life in Toongabbie. It is great that everything that you like to do is within easy walking reach of your home.

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