Catching the train to Sunnybank is a forty five minute ordeal along the Beenleigh train line, passing suburbs such as Rocklea, Fairfield and Salisbury. A 1.8km walk was all it took to arrive at shopping plazas and malls with the smells of roast pork, fresh papaya, freshly made noodles and dumplings. You would not have guessed from the unsuspecting suburbia houses, trees and family friendly parks, that such a mecca of flavours, smells and sounds would exist.
Boasting a population of over 8,000, almost 30% of Sunnybank’s residents are of Asian heritage, and this is definitely reflected in the types of grocery stores, restaurants and services which are popping up all over Sunnybank’s malls and plaza areas. Just walk into any store and you feel like you have just stepped off the plane blindfolded on a surprise flight to any country in Asia. The BBQ pork store is always a must first stop, to smell the scent of freshly roasted duck hanging by hooks on top of the main counter, and the large pieces of pork, dyed red and dripping with the juices from its BBQ ‘ed treatment. Buy a small portion of the pork with crackling to savour the taste of its natural saltiness, fat and the crunch of the crackling.
Even if you do not walk into any stores, but just walk along the pathways and window shop, you cannot escape the cultural experience you will have. Families taking their children to lunch after Saturday tuition and/or Chinese school, and the elderly catching up with their friends for a good times chat over yum cha.
Sunnybank is dubbed as the ‘real’ Chinatown by locals and Chinatown enthusiasts, taking the title over the official Chinatown in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane’s CBD, and touted as a “must visit” according to many online guides on things to do in Brisbane. Its reputation is a testament to the locals and the many various ethnic communities who have made Sunnybank their home, place to eat, shop and have memorable catch ups with old and new friends.
But it has recently been portrayed in a negative light by a group who claim to be sharing stories about the day to day lives of the community in Sunnybank. It started as a Facebook page misusing the name Humans of Sunnybank, and instead of highlighting positive stories, images and stereotypes, it made a poor attempt of humour and used the community to make slapstick jokes of an offensive and racist nature. It is most disturbing that the admin crew of this page are of Chinese heritage with some being born in Australia. It does have quite a large following – from last count around 23,000, with a significant portion sharing an Asian heritage. Its posts have varied from joking how a Cadbury block of chocolate made from dog meat sold out within ten minutes, to a young, attractive Chinese girl who has just come from China saying she only goes for “white boys” as their English is better. More recently it has manipulated the McDonalds sign to say McChihuahua, playing again on the idea the Chinese community in Sunnybank eats dog meat. Other typical racist ideas it has played on is about the Chinese being bad drivers, insinuating the community is uncivilised in its mannerisms, behaviour and social conduct and poking fun at how the Chinese are seen to pronounce various words in English by emulating words in poor pronunciation.
All these cheap jokes do nothing except to reinforce racial stereotypes and encourages racism in society. The fact that the admin crew and many of the page’s supporters are of Chinese or Asian descent does not give them a free pass to make offensive jokes such as these. Elements of self-hate/shame and internalised racism run rampant in their blood. It is probably the most destructive forms of racism – to look down or feel shame about your own cultural heritage, and compensating that self – hate by making cheap and offensive jokes for a few laughs. When confronted, these self-hating type people will hide under the mask that it is satire and that freedom of expression must not be muted, just because the jokes are racist and offensive. Many people, who behave this way, do not reflect upon the ramifications and consequences for the rest of the community and how the mainstream society will react. Pages and groups like Humans of Sunnybank, do nothing more but give society a free pass to use these stereotypes and not realise it is racist and offensive in nature, and in a current global environment, where racism and xenophobia is on high volume, there is no need for any more additional impetus to spread this hate and intolerance.
Instead of being a focal point for undeserved ridicule and embarrassment, Sunnybank and its residents are proud to have made great strides to not only better themselves, but to better their community. It is interesting to note that Sunnybank is ranked as one of the top success stories in Queensland on getting it right on multiculturalism, where over 50% of its residents were born overseas. It holds a lot of great history in regards to many Asian communities making it their home as well as establishing a number of organisations which aim to better the diversity, influence and position of the community and how the communities can better work with the mainstream society. Suburbs only a stone’s throw away from Sunnybank, such as Inala has a huge refugee population and again it is like you are hopping from one melting pot of cultural diversity to another. Sunnybank is also considered as one of the top 12 suburbs of property price growth with a lot of cash flow potential. Its local businesses offer a range of services and products with its proprietors either being home grown from Sunnybank or have made Sunnybank their place to live and work. For many Asian Australians it has provided them a taste of the great Australian dream of good fortune and opportunities.