Se­cret Syd­ney

Meet incog­nito lo­cals, find out where chefs eat, and dis­cover spooky ur­ban leg­ends

Time Out (Sydney) - - INSIDE -


UR­BAN EX­PLOR­ING IS the act of in­ves­ti­gat­ing old and run-down man-made struc­tures. Ur­ban ex­plor­ers, who shorten the act to ‘urbex’, op­er­ate semi-se­cretly as the places they are get­ting into may not be safe or even le­gal to en­ter. Gia is a pas­sion­ate Urbex-er who runs a pho­tog­ra­phy blog called Sh­hSyd­ney. “I want to reach out to Syd­ney folk so ev­ery­one can en­joy these places with­out hav­ing to travel there them­selves,” she says. Re­cently Gia, 35, vis­ited an over­grown man­sion with an at­tached theme park that once spe­cialised in danc­ing Span­ish horses, called El Ca­ballo Blanco. “It’s derelict now, and na­ture has to­tally re­claimed the zoo’s fa­cil­i­ties. It’s ev­i­dent that this was once an in­cred­i­bly opu­lent place. It was a haunt­ing place to visit, as an­i­mals were said to have been mis­treated here; at the time there were no reg­u­la­tions for ex­otic an­i­mal own­er­ship.” Gia prefers to op­er­ate solo, though she’s part of many on­line Urbex fo­rums and Face­book groups: “a quirky col­lec­tion of his­tory en­thu­si­asts, odd­balls and ad­ven­ture seek­ers”. The im­ages she posts on Sh­hSyd­ney of­ten show build­ing rem­nants over­taken by plantlife. “It’s so sur­real wan­der­ing around a place that has been for­got­ten by so­ci­ety – ev­ery sound you hear is mag­ni­fied. It’s the clos­est to a spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had.” CF sh­hsyd­ney.word­

“I wanted to give back to the com­mu­nity” “Ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent... it’s a chal­lenge”


Court­ney is a life­line for moth­ers and chil­dren es­cap­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Her job at the Del­vena Women and Chil­dren’s Refuge in North Syd­ney re­quires ab­so­lute dis­cre­tion – the pre­cise lo­ca­tion of the live-in fa­cil­ity must re­main con­fi­den­tial – and can vary from fix­ing wash­ing ma­chines to or­gan­is­ing im­mi­gra­tion pa­per­work. “To­day I had a client who was in hos­pi­tal, so I went out and had a meet­ing at the hos­pi­tal, brought her back, then I had to go pick up some kids, so ev­ery day is very dif­fer­ent.” Court­ney’s been a caseworker with the refuge for three years and is still try­ing to find a bal­ance be­tween keep­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence on the po­lit­i­cal agenda while main­tain­ing her clients’ se­cu­rity and her own. “It’s a chal­lenge,” she says. Del­vena can house up to five fam­i­lies, and as Court­ney walks around the colour­ful quar­ters, gig­gling tod­dlers bom­bard her with hugs and chat­ter. She says watch­ing the kids grow in a safe space is the great­est joy of the job. But she’s re­al­is­tic about main­tain­ing her own emo­tional care: there’s a lit­tle oil burner in her of­fice and plenty of de­briefs with sup­port­ive co-work­ers. “Some days re­ally get to here,” she says, point­ing to her chest. “It’s how you work through that that’s im­por­tant.” OG wom­en­


Ev­ery time the New­town Jets play a home game at Hen­son Park, spec­ta­tors are treated to the an­tics of Jet Man – the cheeky team mas­cot who in­ter­acts with kids, poses for pho­tos and helps gen­er­ate team spirit. Jet Man made his de­but dur­ing the 2012 sea­son, and a num­ber of peo­ple have donned the out­fit over the years. The lat­est is a 16-year-old stu­dent from Liver­pool, Tommy. “I felt I needed to do some­thing to give back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity,” Tommy says. “I used to live in Mar­rickville, and this takes me back to my child­hood of go­ing to the footy ev­ery week.” Last year Tommy had a stint as Sid the Sock, mas­cot to the Syd­ney Blue Sox base­ball team, in Black­town. But wear­ing a silly out­fit and be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion has its chal­lenges. “Some kids are just nasty! They’ll come up to you and hit you in the ball­sack, do crazy things to you.” A han­dler is es­sen­tial for Jet Man, as the hel­met is very dif­fi­cult to see out of. The cos­tume also gets hot. “You sweat buck­ets. Ev­ery 20 min­utes you have to have a bit of wa­ter, have a lit­tle break.” Then there are those sit­u­a­tions a mas­cot can’t pre­dict. “One time [at a Blue Sox game] this lit­tle girl comes to­wards me cry­ing ‘Sid! Sid!’ I gave her a hug and this dog comes out of nowhere – I found out later it was her dog – and tack­les me to the ground. I was fine, but I wor­ried that the suit would be ripped up.” ND­town­

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