Rumination No. 48: Republic of Sydney

I stumbled upon this hilarious article by The Betoota Advocate about a nationwide study that confirmed:

the long-held belief amongst many, that the Republic of Sydney is, in fact, the worst city in Australia, with only one of its suburbs making it into the Top 100 Most Liveable Suburbs in the country.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Betoota Advocate, it’s a satirical news website that focuses on Australian culture and politics. Furthermore, if you’re unfamiliar with my home town of Wollongong, it is in fact its own regional city, being the third-largest city in the state of New South Wales, behind Sydney and Newcastle. Some even joke that the the initialism ‘NSW’ stands for ‘Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong’ rather than ‘New South Wales’.

Later in the article, a most amusing reason was given for why this key finding was uncovered by the supposed survey:

When asked why they didn’t categorise Wollongong as it’s [sic] own stand-alone city, the researcher explained that they just needed to find something positive to say about Sydney.

I’ve long enjoyed The Betoota Advocate but the two excerpts above stand out to me as some of its best work. When I first found the article online and saw its headline, I naturally assumed that Wollongong was the butt of the joke. When you read it, the author, Hussey, spares no time in mocking the ‘suburb’ of Wollongong and its unfortunate cultural institutions: the North Gong Hotel and Chicko’s, a chicken shop that is labelled an ‘affront to modern health’.

The real butt of the joke here is Sydney, which has been deemed so unlikeable and large that it has become its own republic.

I once worked in Sydney but now that I work in its ‘most liveable suburb’, I only ever visit on occasional weekends for shows, special occasions or planned day-trips. What I have noticed over time is Sydney’s transformation into a bloated mini-country all of its own. Sure, it’s great to visit Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and the newer Barangaroo development, but if you venture much further beyond the CBD, you realise just how far the place sprawls, with a somewhat confusing web of infrastructure and public transport.

Sydney has become so large that I imagine that it is difficult for some Sydneysiders to even imagine other cities beyond their home. As a resident of Wollongong, which is only an 80-minute drive away from Sydney CBD, I have met Sydney people who have said that they’ve never once visited Wollongong. Not visiting regularly is understandable for practical reasons, as Sydney hosts the majority of the job market and those who live there are unlikely to commute out of the city (as residents of Newcastle and Wollongong must often do)… but never? That’s surprising.

Socioculturally and politically, I find this all to be a little concerning. With the long-established view that policy and news-reporting favour the east coast of Australia, what happens to the fabric of our society and the existing divide between city and country, when some Sydneysiders can barely be bothered to regard or visit major regional centres beyond their own urban bubble?