Back to News page

Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release January 2006

Breaking the Silence

Hi SOS Members

Occasionally a voice speaks out for the silent majority as Bernard Salt does below. We are mostly too scared and/or too polite to counter the screeches of the zealot minority - the "black-clad politically correct inner-city-living cultural elite who control the metropolitan planning process".

Let us support brave lone voices by publically articulating our own thoughts at appropriate opportunities.


My secret love's no secret anymore
Bernard Salt

I HAVE thought about this long and hard all summer. Should I disclose what I am about to disclose or should I continue to cover it up?

But how can I continue to pretend that I don't have these "thoughts", these "feelings"? I am sure there are others out there just like me but I suspect that they too have been bullied into silence.
I can see it in their eyes: our forbidden passion simmers just below the surface at planning meetings; it smoulders in the corridors of the Land and Environment court; it positively pulsates -- nay, throbs -- in council chambers all over this nation.

I am of course talking about the heretics, the miscreants and the deviants who, like me, "quite like suburbia". There, it's out there. I am a "suburbanist". I confess to being a lover of suburbia and I refuse to be ashamed of how I feel. Yes, I know that I should know better. And, yes, I know that my forbidden and unnatural suburbanist love is unsophisticated and that it can never be consummated. But that's no help. It just makes me ever more curious, ever more devoted.

I am simply not attracted to medium-density development the way I am to low-density suburban sprawl.

Oh, the exquisite beauty of a well-planned, low-density residential suburb. I can think of nothing more fulfilling or, frankly, more thrilling than a Sunday drive to the outer suburbs.

My car willingly hugs the curves of winding secondary collector roads, stopping here and stopping there so that I might gaze upon the Rubenesque splendour of a cul-de-sac's perfectly formed turning circle.

To the suburbanist's mind there is nothing quite so spiritually pleasing as a Ramsay Street vista where rollover kerbing is gently breached by a series of radiating concrete driveways - all of which knowingly find their way to their own amply proportioned double garage, each with their own workshop and storage area!

After appreciating the sublime order of the outer suburban streetscape I then allow my mind to contemplate the inhabitants of these enchanting places.

Inside Australia's most favoured form of residential dwelling live ordinary families: a father, a mother and two children. In some cases the families might be blended. But in all cases I imagine both parents working outside the family home. They have two cars. They don't use public transport. They don't travel into the CBD. They don't attend high-brow cultural events and festivals. But they do have a broad range of friends and family who live similar lives in nearby suburbs.

You will appreciate that these warm views of low-density suburban sprawl are highly subversive and, in planning circles at least, border on the anarchic. So for many years I have kept quiet about my strange thoughts, sharing them only with a small band of like-minded renegades.

We meet monthly in abandoned rotundas and swap pictures of young and developing suburbs torn from the pages of street directories. We think Melbourne's Narre Warren South is so hot. As for Sydney's Glenmore Park, well, it simply doesn't get any better.

But, alas, these dreams of a time when my affection for suburban sprawl might be accepted are destined to remain forever that. Dreams. For whenever lovers of suburbia have gathered to share their thoughts, they have been mercilessly howled down by the black-clad politically correct inner-city-living cultural elite who control the metropolitan planning process.

It is this lot who have decreed: "Suburban sprawl is an original sin, born of the 20th century, that must now be eliminated from the metropolitan footprint."

The cultural elite regard suburban sprawl as an unredeeming place confined to the margins of civilisation - which defiles the environment and isolates its inhabitants, and whose demands for infrastructure drain public monies away from causes deemed more worthy by, well, the cultural elite.

But despite this unholy assessment, I think that the concept of low-density suburban sprawl will live on in the hearts and minds of ordinary Australians. The average Aussie likes a three-bedroom brick veneer on a quarter-acre block with a front and back yard, all packaged neatly for less than $350,000 within a 30-minute drive of a reasonable selection of jobs.

It especially lives in the hearts of outed suburbanist lovers such as myself, and my band of renegade directory-swappers, who believe that one day the cruel and judgmental regime of the cultural elite will be subverted and hopefully replaced by a kinder, gentler, regime more tolerant of alternative lifestyle choices.

But until that day arrives the inhabitants of suburban sprawl will continue to be persecuted.

The suburbanites' recent embrace of conservative political values is especially reviled by today's cultural elite. The same is true in the US, where the Australian suburban incarnation, the "red" states of the US heartland, have been pilloried as "redneckistan".

The Australian suburban heartland is also being pilloried as "the burbs", in much the same way that our rural heartland was for many years disparagingly referred to as "the bush" or "the sticks". In the 21st century, Australian suburbia is no longer viewed as it was in the mid to late 20th century: a seductress, capable of attracting residents out of cramped inner-suburban terrace houses with the mere promise of a car port and barbecue area.

And so it is that my sadly dated affection for low-density suburban sprawl has remained hidden for all this time. I hope my forbidden suburbanist affection will eventually be accepted by a truly tolerant and inclusive society.

Bernard Salt is a partner with KPMG;

Tony Recsei

President, Save Our Suburbs

Back to News page