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In Defense of Lakemba - Letter from the Mayor Brian Robson

Released on 19 August 2014

Mayor Brian Robson

To the Editor,

I was disappointed and annoyed to read Tim Blair's story (Last drinks in Lakemba - Daily Telegraph 18/08) as it is not the Lakemba that I know.

A more superficial look at the vibrant town centre of Lakemba I have not yet seen.

It was selective reporting at best.

Whilst the Lakemba Hotel may be an "old joint" to use his terminology the Lakemba RSL just down the street and down from the local Church has just had a $2M refit and is trading exceedingly well.

Mr Blair says that you can walk "the length of Haldon St and not hear a single phrase in English". I walk Haldon St often and a simple hello to shopkeepers and shoppers always results in a friendly response in English. It always helps to be friendly to people and obviously Mr Blair did not see the necessity to do so.

I would also take exception to Mr Blair's statement that "Australia may be multicultural but Haldon St is a monocultural".

That would come as a surprise to those who work and shop in Haldon St. Whilst the majority of businesses are run by people of Lebanese background they are not necessarily all Muslim. The Bangladesh, Indian, Pakistan, Fijian, Thai, Islander, Indonesian and Sudanese communities (just to name a few) would also be surprised to have Haldon St described as monocultural.

With respect to his comments about food he would have had to walk past a number of non-arabic restaurants, including a couple of excellent Thai restaurants, before coming across the restaurants named.

His obsession with the contents of the local Arabic bookshop (which is just down the road from Domino's Pizza) borders on the bizarre and to try to paint the whole of Lakemba as being typified by the contents of an obscure bookshop really stretches the imagination.

The photograph of the sign above the local Prayer Hall should be seen in the same context of the signs outside the church across the road - both express their respective beliefs and are certainly not objectionable to any reasonable person - of any faith.

And finally, I strongly object to the gratuitous linking of the Elomar brothers to Lakemba. Their activities and behaviour have no link to Lakemba, save that they are Lebanese and Muslim.

Mr Blair's reporting unfortunately says more about Mr Blair and his bleak and cynical outlook on life rather than what is actually happening in Lakemba.

If he had taken the time to talk to residents he would be aware of their fears and concerns about what is happening in conflicts overseas. Fears for the relatives and friends and the millions of refugees caught up in the violence.

But he didn't.

I demand a retraction and apology to the residents and shopkeepers of Lakemba for Mr Blair's inaccurate and offensive reporting, but I won't hold my breath waiting for either.

Cr Robson
City of Canterbury
18 August 2014

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