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

Zoya Patel 2 June 2021 37
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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37 Responses to I was trashed for living in Queanbeyan as a teenager – is the rivalry finally over?
Shaun Allen Shaun Allen 1:35 pm 05 Jun 21

For a population that is supposedly more educated than the national average, Canberrans are incredibly blinkered (except when they're driving - they don't know what blinkers are on the road!)

I lived in Qbn for 2.5 years and really enjoyed it - the people are more down to earth, property is cheaper, and commutes are shorter than from the suburbs of Gungahlin and Tuggeranong

Colin Ball Colin Ball 12:58 pm 05 Jun 21

I would rather be from Queanbeyan then my home town of Liverpool in South West Sydney. I worked in Queanbeyan for 2 years and never had issues, live in Gungahlin and have had multiple car break ins and a bike stolen from my home.

John Gercken John Gercken 6:12 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.

Lisa Hogan Lisa Hogan 9:40 pm 04 Jun 21

I've been told that Googong is bad from qbn folk, no explanation though.

    Leaha Jeffery Leaha Jeffery 10:22 pm 04 Jun 21

    Lisa Hogan sounds like jealousy to me

    Colin Ball Colin Ball 1:00 pm 05 Jun 21

    Lisa Hogan usually the crap that have sticky fingers don't steal from there own areas and head to the 'rich' or 'well off' areas. Seen it so much as delivery driver.

Neil Marr Neil Marr 7:22 pm 04 Jun 21

It's a great place.

Ol L Ol L 2:33 pm 04 Jun 21

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

Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 11:59 am 04 Jun 21

Its not really more affordable, depending on where in Canberra you look it is pretty comparable. In my experience build quality is a bit lower though.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:05 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.

Ben Davis Ben Davis 8:56 am 04 Jun 21

Rates are better and no land tax!

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 12:00 pm 04 Jun 21

    Ben Davis NSW has land tax, it just only applies to properties valued over $600,000.

    Ben Davis Ben Davis 12:48 pm 04 Jun 21

    Land only values though. Doesn't take into account the value of the house sitting on top of it.

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 12:52 pm 04 Jun 21

    Ben Davis that is right.

    Ben Davis Ben Davis 12:53 pm 04 Jun 21

    Thankfully quangers hasn't hit those dizzy heights for most investments yet. Only a matter of time though

Srikanth Kilari Srikanth Kilari 6:25 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

chewy14 chewy14 10:29 pm 03 Jun 21

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.

purplevh purplevh 9:55 pm 03 Jun 21

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.

Shiva Sapkota Shiva Sapkota 7:32 pm 03 Jun 21

Interesting. Queanbeyan is larger than Canberra area wise as a council. It’s so diverse in terms of housing and demographic that you can’t generalise anymore. It is certainly not cheaper than many fringe Canberra suburbs. In fact, houses built around late 90s and 2000s are much more expensive than Canberra over there and way better in quality as well. I am one of those who moved happily there despite owning houses in Canberra. It has certainly got soul and community vibe and has progressed a lot under the good leadership of Tim Overall lately.

    Barbara Ingram Barbara Ingram 9:14 pm 03 Jun 21

    Shiva Sapkota better quality? You realise it would be the same builders as the ACT.

    Shiva Sapkota Shiva Sapkota 4:46 am 04 Jun 21

    Barbara Ingram I find they are much nicer architecture and larger size. Have a look around all the tiny estates around Queanbeyan. I don’t think you will find them easily in Canberra. See below as an example.

    Kati Mann Kati Mann 8:48 am 04 Jun 21

    Shiva Sapkota Tim Overall is the worst thing that happened to the Palerang Region - unmitigated disaster!

    Lisa Hogan Lisa Hogan 9:37 pm 04 Jun 21

    I dont think that's accurate. They would need an ACT licence to build in the territory.

    Barbara Ingram Barbara Ingram 10:12 pm 04 Jun 21

    Lisa Hogan I think you'll find most of the builders in the region have licenses in both.

    Chris Mitchell Chris Mitchell 9:02 am 06 Jun 21

    Shiva Sapkota I agree re the housing prices these days. I found them to be as expensive as Canberra. Great place to live though.

Sean Harrison Sean Harrison 7:31 pm 03 Jun 21

The old struggle town fighting back again.

Not The Mama Not The Mama 6:21 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.

Nick Swain Nick Swain 4:56 pm 03 Jun 21

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.

Jackie White Jackie White 4:04 pm 03 Jun 21

This is directly under this on my feed:


kenm kenm 3:21 pm 03 Jun 21

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

Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 1:39 pm 03 Jun 21

Just bought in the Q Facts: Closer to all the great stuff in Canberra than places like Bonner or Banks will ever be. The outer suburbs are ages away.

franky22 franky22 1:08 pm 03 Jun 21

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

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