Once were Westies

13 Jun 2008

The Westie was a creation of the 1960s and '70s as young, working families were encouraged westward into the newly built, rather austere public and private housing subdivisions on Sydney's urban fringe. It was a term of division and derision, and became shorthand for a population considered lowbrow, coarse and lacking education and cultural refinement.

Westie became a rhetorical device to designate the 'other' Sydney: spatially, culturally and economically different from the more prosperous and privileged Sydneysiders of the north and east.

Aspirationals came to prominence in the late 1990s to describe a seemingly new constituency of voters living on the urban fringes who appeared to have clawed their way out of the real battler class and into big cars, big houses and even bigger mortgages. In reality, as the one-time leader of federal Labor, Mark Latham, both promulgated and epitomised, Sydney’s Aspirationals are mostly grown-up Westies who have taken advantage of dual incomes, easy finance and housing-based wealth.

The term has come to incorporate others, including a mix of blue-collar contractors/service providers who live on the fringes of other Australian cities.

In keeping with its pejorative nuance, University of Wollongong academic John Robinson notes that the term resonates more with outsiders. Viewed as self-interested and materialistic, Aspirationals are reckoned to hold a more selfish set of values and morés than other Australians. As one of Robinson’s interviewees from Sydney’s privileged eastern suburbs puts it: 'They are people who want to be middle-class but are not. They are into credit and consumption, living in suburbs they can't afford to be in and in houses they can’t afford, with lots of goods they can’t afford to have.'

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