From dark past to vibrant city
Sally Lee, Fairfield Champion
14 December 2011

thang ngo once upon a time in Cabramatta

THE fastest rail route from the city to Cabramatta was once known as the junkie express.
With a wink, dealers would approach both drug users and ordinary travellers at the station entrances and on the pedestrian overpass during the 1980s and 1990s.

The suburb was labelled the heroin capital of Australia.

Cabramatta is back in the national limelight again. This time with a series of true stories unveiled through a SBS documentary, Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta.

The series will feature three episodes, perhaps a trip down memory lane for some, focusing on the tales of heartbreak and hardship shared by Vietnamese individuals who recount some of their darkest days in Cabramatta.

Last week, the Champion went on a guided tour with former Fairfield councillor Thang Ngo.

One of the executive producers of the documentary, Sue Clothier, who was also on the tour last week, said she was always fascinated by Cabramatta and its history.

“This is where the breakthrough stories lie,” she said.

“Cabramatta has been through dark times and it’s amazing to see how it’s pushed through and transformed into the multicultural community we see today.”

Though Ms Clothier knew only “bits and pieces” about Cabramatta’s notorious history of crimes, she was keen to dig deeper.

“I’d only heard the little bits about Cabramatta and I was eager to learn more about it,” she said.

“So the series tries to fit in 35 years of history into three episodes from the Vietnamese community’s point of view.

“It definitely wasn’t easy because it took a lot of research and lots of searching for individuals who were willing to share their stories.

“But this is truly one of the best series I’ve ever produced . . . There’s just something about these stories that elevates me beyond any other show.”

Episodes will be on SBS One on January 8, January 15 and January 22 at 8.30pm. A Vietnamese-subtitled version will show on SBS Two on the same dates and times.