Menangle

The traffic was busy on the freeway heading south of Sydney. Once this area had been all farms and scrub but it is now one of the fastest growing satellite urban areas in Australia.

When I was a baby my family lived for a short while in the village of Menangle. My earliest memories come from here – the hallway in our house by the railway line; walking with my mother as we took my sisters to the small school near the hill where the church looked over the village; trains rumbling by through the night and the light throwing shadows on my bedroom walls.

This area was one of the first settled by Europeans in Australia. Its rich soils provided verdant pastures that made the area a food bowl for the young colony. John Macarthur was granted land here in 1805 and even today there is still a strong colonial presence in the names of the villages, roads and farms in this region.

At first I missed the turn toward Menangle after leaving Camden but I soon found my way back to the correct road. The spring sunshine was warm and I took my time to enjoy the scenery. Before long I was at Menangle and after parking the car near the old corner shop I found myself walking toward my old home.

Menangle is an Anglicised version of an Aboriginal word for place of swamps. Not far from here there had been bitter skirmishes between the settlers and the Dharawal people on the banks of the Nepean River. Governor Macquarie ordered troops to the area and they soon opened fire on a group of Aborigines, killing men, women and children.

I bought a pie from the corner shop and sat outside to enjoy my lunch. It felt strange to think that I had once been in this very place as a baby. By my family had left here a long time ago and new people call Menangle home. As I climbed back into the car I realised I hadn’t found what I was looking for here. The essence of who I have become must be somewhere else.

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