Winston Hills: the suburb you’ve never heard of, but most people from Sydney’s inner-West have driven through it on their way to somewhere else, or driven into it for the purpose of wolfing down some Chook A Licious.
That should definitely be our catchphrase.
I have been wanting to write about my suburb for ages. I was so excited when our editor asked: “Who hasn’t written about their suburb yet?”, that I eagerly raised my hand. And then, I sat down to write about my suburb. But what to write?
My usual protocol for when I don’t know what to do: Google it. Something. Anything. Google anything, and you’re sure to arrive at an answer, even if it’s not the answer to the question you were asking in the first place.
Here’s what I found on a real estate website: “Winston Hills is a beautiful suburb, where homes and gardens are kept pristine and outstyle neighbourhood values are still evident. It is a very short journey into the heart of Parramatta.” My first thought is, “are we really rating people on how they keep their gardens in 2021?” My second thought is, “What does ‘outstyle’ mean?”
Here’s the thing. We are just inside Parramatta. Just. This was confusing when “LGAs” became a popular term towards the middle of 2020. We learned that we were part of the Parramatta Council.
This may not sound strange. It probably isn’t. But I had lived most of my life thinking that I lived in what is known as the Hills Shire Council. And here’s the thing: I still do.
Winston Hills is a 5-square-kilometre suburb, originally inhabited by the First Nations Toongagal clan of the Dharug peoples. This is because Winston Hills was part of the Old Toongabbie area when the area began being developed in the 1960s (note: Toongabbie is part of Blacktown City Council). The development division of the L. J. Hooker realty company named the development ‘Winston Hills Estate’ after the infamous British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Before that, it was known as ‘Model Farms’ — and that namesake legacy lives on, with one street in Winston Hills called Model Farms Road and the local high school called Model Farms High School — but that’s in Baulkham Hills, which is part of the Hills Shire Council.
It turns out that as recently as May 2016, Winston Hills became shared between the City of Parramatta and the Hills Shire Council. So that’s why we get the Hills Shire and Parramatta flyers in the mail. In 2018, it was found that Winston Hills had an estimated residential population of 12,811 people. I can’t tell whether that is a lot for a 5km radius, or very little. Either way, I seem to see the same people every day, but I also see people I’ve never seen before on a regular basis. We are both a small town and part of a greater city.
I asked on my Instagram what my fellow Winston Hills residents thought about the suburb: what were their favourite things, and what were their least favourite things? Many people mentioned the Chisholm Centre, a space of five shops in a row: a bakery (I used to work at!), a Vietnamese cuisine restaurant, a chemist, Chook A Licious (renowned for its chicken and chips) and a real estate agency. Growing up, I — and many others, surprisingly — called it Piggly Wiggly. Why? I’ve done some investigation, and I could not tell you why.
One person wrote that it’s ‘endearing’ that it’s both a suburb which people outside of the Hills area have never heard of, but also has three primary schools, a main shopping centre with many of the main chain supermarket stores and two small market-areas, including the Chisholm Centre (the one on the other side of Winston Hills that has gourmet pizza, called Pizza on Lomond and it can best be described as great).
Another person wrote that while the memories attached to Winston Hills are great because the high school is essentially next to the shopping centre (and yet, the shopping centre is part of Baulkham Hills and the Hills Shire Council), bumping into people from high school that you’d rather not bump into maybe the thing that makes Winston Hills lose its charm. That’s something that I live with every day — I turn a corner on one of my infamous lockdown walks to see someone I used to know, and immediately need to calculate a different path in order to not have to engage in conversation.
Overwhelmingly, my fellow Winston Hillions detested that the suburb is mainly populated by conservative old white people. One person mentioned a ‘microaggressions culture,’ and I completely agree. It’s the only thing that’s ever made me feel like I want to escape the smallness of my area. It’s something I don’t know how to contribute to change, especially as prices rise exponentially ($2 mil should not be the average price for a house, and yet it is in Winston Hills) and young people are mostly driven out. Even so, many called it ‘wholesome’ or somewhere they felt safe in public, compared to other suburbs. One of my friends said that growing up right on the border of Winston Hills, they felt safe, and like they were part of that community, even if they didn’t technically belong to my side of the border.
When I was younger, I used to detest where we lived. My parents forced me to walk to school every day, and I jealously envied those whose parents drove them to school. “But MUM!” I would yell. “It’s called WINSTON HILLS. There are hills! I can’t walk up hills!” and it’s true; it’s an incredibly hilly suburb. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. But as I’ve grown older, I have realised that I am so lucky to live where I live. I live a five-to-ten-minute walk away from a bus stop that could take me anywhere — further out west to Blacktown, or closer to the city, to Macquarie or the CBD, or into the heart of Parramatta itself.
I really love this suburb that I grew up in. If I ever get the opportunity to live here on my own property, I will seize that chance with grasping hands and open eyes. The reality is that I will probably never be able to afford it — and it’s something that keeps me up at night — but can’t a girl dream?
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to grow up where I grew up, and be part of the schools that I went to (regardless of how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they were), and to have had the experiences that I’ve had in Winston Hills.
You should stop by sometime.