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50 Years of Inala By chloe cufflin

Inala is a suburb in southwest Brisbane and is home to the largest Vietnamese and Buddhist population in Queensland. It is also a suburb that receives mixed reviews and often brings disgust to some people's faces. Why is this?

Formerly known as Serviceton, Inala was founded in 1946 due to a housing shortage after the second world war, which then saw an influx of immigrants move to the area over the next few decades.

Caption: Google Maps view of Inala. Supplied by Google Maps.

Despite modern-day Inala possessing an impressive multicultural identity, the suburb has struggled to shed its seemingly 'dangerous' reputation.

I visited Inala to witness the suburb for myself, and I spoke to five different people who have played a role at some point over the last fifty years in shaping Inala.

These are their stories. Listen as they tell of their time living and working in the Inala area through each decade, and how the suburb is every bit the opposite of their 'struggle street' persona.

70s: Supporting the community

Caption: Inala Community House logo. Supplied by Inala Community House.

Inala Community House was formed in 1966 and rose to prominence during the 1970s after the first wave of Vietnamese immigrants.

Their initial goal was to enhance the lives of children, youths, adults, and families across Inala, and they have since expanded to cover other parts of southeast Queensland.

“In a nutshell, we're a non-profit organisation that's been standing for over fifty years. We have different departments that deal with out of home care for Inala residents. Our services range from recruiting and supporting foster carers to helping settle migrants,” said Inala Community House.

“We run a bunch of mostly free or low-cost initiatives like musical morning teas and senior programs. 100% of the profits we make go to bettering Inala and the surrounding areas."

"The Inala demographic is quite broad, with a lot of its residents coming from various backgrounds and walks of life."

"We hold our self responsible for providing a welcoming presence for anyone who wishes to come and live in Inala. We know Inala sees a lot of refugees and immigrants move to the area, so we have programs and support systems in place for them to access."

80s: A political dynasty

Henry Palaszczuk was a minister of the Queensland Parliament during the 80s and 90s and now resides in Inala. His daughter Annastacia is the current Queensland Premier and she represents the Inala electorate.

Before his political career, Palaszczuk was a primary school teacher in Inala and was actively involved in the community.

“I used to be on the school P&C Committee and would help organise school fundraisers. I loved attending community fancy dress balls, school fetes, and car rallies. My own self, I was involved in a Christian group and we would regularly meet up,” said Palaszczuk.

“I have built many lifelong friendships with people I met on different boards and committees within the community,” he added.

Palaszczuk and his family moved to Inala as migrants.

“We were part of it [immigration to Inala] and went to the Wacol Migrant Camp before moving to Inala.

Inala was the place where any refugees or displaced persons went to live, because the migrant hostel was just a few kilometres away and it was easy for them to just move across into Inala.”

Palaszczuk remarks how over sixty different nationalities have settled in the area and remembers the days when the wave of Vietnamese migrants moved to the area.

Caption: An Asian fruit market in Inala Civic Centre (on the left). Supplied by Henry Palaszczuk.

“The local residents didn’t know what to make of them, so what the Vietnamese people did is what we call spring roll diplomacy; the Vietnamese would make a batch of spring rolls and pass them over the fence to their Aussie neighbours, and consequently all the barriers broke down.

Today it’s a melting pot of cultures – that’s Inala’s strength. It’s always been its strength.

Anyone who comes to Inala, I tell them to come to the Civic Centre. It’s the meeting place – anyone who is anyone goes to the Civic."

When I asked Palaszczuk why Inala has been perceived so poorly over the years, he blamed the Inala Courthouse.

“We had a local courthouse which serviced all of the areas outside of Inala as well, but because of its name people presumed all of the people appearing in court lived here, which was not the case.”

90s: An ideal childhood

Greg Clews, a former Inala resident, spent the first thirty-seven years of his life living in Inala.

“I grew up in a 3-bedroom commission house during the 50s and right through until the 90s,” said Clews.

Caption: The house Clews grew up in. Supplied by Greg Clews.

“The government built Inala for low income residents who relied on living in housing commission. Over the years we have seen different races come to live in the area – Poms, Italians, and Greeks,” he said.

“I loved growing up in Inala. There was always something to do. I used to do Scouts on Friday nights when I was young, and when I got older I had a great bunch of mates who I used to play footy with at the Inala Leagues Club."

Caption: Clews' footy team. Supplied by Greg Clews.

"We loved to go out socialising. You know, drinking and chatting to girls,” Clews laughs.

Clews has always been a hard worker and credits Inala for instilling “manners, respect, and a good work ethic” in him.

“My first job was at the fish and chip shop on Magnolia Street, and I also worked a second job on the side at the Inala pub drive thru to pay for my wife’s engagement ring!”

2000s: A little rough around the edges

Brisbane journalist, Myjanne Jensen, moved to Inala when she was fifteen and has fond memories of her time growing up there.

Caption: Photo from Myjanne's (left) blog post. Supplied by Myjanne Jensen.

“I worked at the Bi-Lo in the Inala Civic Centre and built a good rapport with a lot of my regular customers who would tell me stories,” Jensen said.

“We moved to Inala when I was fifteen due to a family crisis. We didn’t have a lot of money so I didn’t do a whole lot of extracurricular activities. I was just working and playing with my sibling at home,” she said.

“Obviously it’s a low socioeconomic area and I think gradually over time as the population of Brisbane grows and expands further into the suburbs, I would think we will see an increase in housing and land prices and you will start to see that image change.”

“It has the reputation because you have people who are struggling living there. And when you struggle, you get desperate and do things you wouldn’t do if you were safe and healthy. I think sometimes the media likes to look for the bad things because that what sells. As a journalist myself, I know if something happens it's bad news that sells, not good news.”

“Inala is rich with culture and the people are a bit more real. There's not as much pretentiousness out that way.”

2010s: A multicultural haven

Tania Schott is a Maori social worker who moved to Inala twenty-five years ago and still calls Inala home.

Schott works for a recovery mental health team funded by the health department, that operates within multicultural communities across wider Brisbane.

She works with clients who have suffered from domestic violence and trauma, and her team offers an alternative to mainstream social work by focussing on the needs of multicultural clients.

Schott loves Inala and wouldn’t want to live and work anywhere else.

“I don’t have a bad thing to say about Inala,” said Schott.

“I’ve shopped here for twenty-five years and I’ve always felt safe, night or day. I think its because I go with no judgement. I’ve never felt uncomfortable or not welcomed. But then again, that’s easy for me to say because I’m multicultural as well,” she said.

“Inala has a richness about it. A richness of diversity that provides amazing foods, amazing cultures, and amazing stores. And even the smells when you’re in the local shops – you smell it, you see it, you feel it. You can’t get this in Queen Street in Brisbane.”

Schott blames Inala’s negative reputation on ignorance that is perpetuated by the media.

“We always see this constant scary narrative that Inala is full of drugs and alcohol and crime.

I remember when they built Forest Lake and on one of the main streets they built this enormous fence about 8 foot high so Forest Lake residents couldn’t see people in Inala.

I heard Forest Lake people say ‘yeah it keeps them out. We don’t want them.’ This fence and the false perception of us divided the two communities.

It’s like the great big German wall separating east and west Berlin.”

Schott believes learning is the best weapon against ignorance.

“Come to Inala. If you want to gain more life experience, go and visit places like Inala and sit in the local shopping centre and you will see the beauty in diversity.

Assumption is the mother of all hiccups, and ignorance will continue to breed if we aren’t prepared to learn.”

Conclusion:

Inala proves to be a suburb rich with people, rather than money.

Despite its low socioeconomic status giving residents a difficult time and tarnishing the suburb's reputation, it definitely hasn't put a damper on Inala's potential.

All five current and former residents have lived out unique and promising lives whilst being associated with the Inala area.

If there's one thing I've learnt from my time on the field in Inala, it's that there is some good and some bad everywhere we go. It's just a matter of perspective and deciphering true from false.

Un-captioned images appendix (in order they appear): Cover photo - Inala Plaza. Supplied by https://www.lion-corp.com.au/listings/commercial_rental-2180766-inala/ ; Google Maps screenshot of Inala ; Musical morning tea photo supplied by Inala Community House ; Profile photo and fruit stand supplied by Henry Palaszczuk; Inala signpost supplied by ABC News ; stock image from Culture in Mind ; fruit stand photo supplied by Wikipedia.