2 June 2021

I was trashed for living in Queanbeyan as a teenager - is the rivalry finally over?

| Zoya Patel
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The Q, Queanbeyan

Queanbeyan boasts world-class cultural facilities and a striving cultural community. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

“You have to catch the Queanbo bus!”

“More like the povvo bus!”

I can still hear the slurs today that used to hound me and the handful of other kids who caught the Deane’s bus to and from school in Canberra to our homes in Queanbeyan.

Despite being a short 20-minute drive out of the inner south, Queanbeyan may as well have been another country, given the almost patriotic pride my peers took in dissing the town.

My family moved to Queanbeyan from country NSW in 1998 and lived there until 2011 when my parents moved to a rural property, and we kids found our own homes. When I moved out aged 21, I was thrilled to be leaving Queanbeyan behind me. I used to joke that I got in the car and drove north and intended never to head south again.

I was keen to rid myself of the Queanbeyan stigma that had dogged me through school. We were teased by peers who lived in Canberra based on the stereotype of Queanbeyan as a rough town full of down-and-out working-class folk, riddled with crime, and home to the reluctant residents who couldn’t afford to buy a house in Canberra, which (it was implied) was where we all wished to live.

READ ALSO An Insider’s Guide to Queanbeyan

I’d be lying if I said at least some of these assertions weren’t based on a sliver of truth. It’s true that living adjacent to Queanbeyan Park, I would regularly be woken up by police sirens and the sound of scuffles in the early hours of the morning as people in varying states of inebriation were hauled off for public disorder.

We did have to queue for our morning and afternoon buses at the local interchange where the well-known older sex worker would be lounging against a wall smoking and spruiking her wares, and also where a heritage-listed building turned into a squat before eventually being set alight. The charred remains stood untouched for practically a decade before developers bought the lot and built a towering apartment block.

And it’s also true that my parents sent us to school in Canberra because the reputation of schools in Queanbeyan was dire.

But now, with hindsight, I have to wonder what came first: the lousy reputation or the downtrodden aspect of Queanbeyan? Was it a vicious cycle where one continued to produce the other, with the town unable to really flourish for as long as it was treated as the place where people lived as a last resort when priced out of Canberra?

Man with Queanbeyan tattooed across his back

Residents are passionate about their love of Queanbeyan. Photo: Deep Image Tattooing.

Of course, in the decades since my time in Queanbeyan, things have changed a lot. Back then, people knew that it was more affordable to buy and live in Queanbeyan, but buying in Canberra was still a realistic prospect. Now, people are flocking to the close regions as housing prices in Canberra break new records almost weekly. Suddenly, Queanbeyan isn’t so bad.

And stigmas aside, Queanbeyan really isn’t so bad.

READ ALSO Good folk of Queanbeyan say festival may be here to stay

In fact, there’s a unique culture to the place that I was too blind to see as a teenager but can appreciate now.

There’s a genuine sense of community – the same post office staff, pharmacists and bank tellers have been serving my family for years and always get a special card at Christmas time. There are some excellent op shops that haven’t been completely plundered by Canberra hipsters, where you can always find a bargain. There is a growing list of cafes and restaurants, as well as some classics that have been around for eons, still soldiering on despite the impact of the pandemic. Also, you can’t forget that the biggest and best Spotlight is in Queanbeyan, which is reason enough for a visit.

The old stereotypes were also only negative if viewed within the paradigm of elitist snobbery from which they came. In fact, by virtue of being affordable, Queanbeyan has a vibrant multicultural community and generations of locals who have lived and loved in the town without giving a hoot what Canberra thought of them.

I am curious if the old rivalry between Queanbeyan and Canberra is finally over, as more Canberrans flock across the border to find a life where they aren’t paying 80 per cent of their income on their mortgage. Is Queanbeyan no longer the poor cousin but the independent and flourishing sibling to Canberra?

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John Gercken6:12 am 05 Jun 21

Wife and I stayed in Queanbeyan for a couple of nights recently, mostly because Canberra accom was too dear. We were surprised and pleased how modern and nice the town was. Great motel, nice restaurants and clubs. God’s shopping. And our favourite Kingsley’s chicken store.

Capital Retro12:51 pm 05 Jun 21

Groceries, F & V are a lot cheaper too.

No land tax for property under $800k makes Queanbeyan the place to invest

Capital Retro9:05 am 04 Jun 21

Land tax in NSW is an annual tax levied at the end of the calendar year on property you own that is above the land tax threshold. Your principal place of residence is exempt, and other exemptions and concessions may apply.

Very similar to across the border in ACT, Ben Davis.

Srikanth Kilari6:25 am 04 Jun 21

There is a big difference people live in Queanbeyan live for their own comfort as it is handy to CBD and all suburbs of Canberra as people in Canberra live for society comfort just to say I live in Canberra practically I lived in jacka used to drive to Tuggeranong in morning reminded me Sydney days more than one hour amount of fuel and time same living in Banks going to gungahlin finally people in Queanbeyan are lovely natural people

Sylvia Balboa9:43 pm 12 Oct 23

True very true

I’m curious considering Zoya’s previous articles whether she would actually consider living in Queanbeyan again by choice.

Despite the protestations, there are clearly a higher proportion of people in Queanbeyan that Zoya would consider undesirable due to their “unelightened” viewpoints on life.

If you compared a house in Canberra to a near identical house in Queanbeyan the house in QBN used to be the more expensive one. Not sure if this is still the case or not.

What makes Queanbeyan cheaper on average is the cheap flats, apartments, units and townhouses that there are comparatively more of.

I could have bought a house in Belconnen for the same or less than my house in Queanbeyan cost me but wanted to be nearer to my kids after I moved into town due to divorce.

Fully agree. Houses in the hills and newer estates of Queanbeyan are much nicer and more expensive than Canberra. Many are basing their opinion on cheaper older units & townhouses.

Not The Mama6:21 pm 03 Jun 21

While I am not sure that teenagers bagging each other over where they live is any reason to conclude that there is a rivalry between the two cities.

I think that there may healthy friendly rivalry like the one that Australia and New Zealand have – We love beating each other at rugby, but when it really counts we are “brothers in arms” – sometimes quite literally.

For example, when the Howard and Abbott government took a razor to the AU PS in Canberra, everyone in Australia except QBN cheered.

And don’t your friends have the right to laugh at you when you are being silly? Or the responsibility to tell you straight when they think you have done something wrong (and remain your friend)?

Our fortunes are so intertwined that makes the thought of anything more than friendly rivalry almost silly.

Queanbeyan is proud of its history – it was here before Canberra and can thank John Gale for promoting the site of Canberra for the National Capital. It celebrates its sports stars and other identities, has a fascinating heritage trail and has spruced up the river side tracks. Good coffee and food too.

Maybe todays shooting at the Queanbeyan KFC answers some questions….

Zoya – always clickbaiting.
Next article will be on giving Charnies a hard time.

No. Now take your stolen bike and go back there.

Capital Retro8:17 am 03 Jun 21

…..”bank tellers have been serving my family for years and always get a special card at Christmas time”…….

There are still banks with counter services in Queanbeyan and Christmas celebration isn’t banned there yet?

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