Fairfield City, with a population of around 200,000, lays claim to being the most diverse and dynamic area in Australia. The diversity is found, not only in the people of many different cultural backgrounds who have chosen to live there, but also in the variety of landform and settlement throughout the district. To the north is the massive Wetherill Park Industrial Estate. To the west are the rural lands of Horsley Park whose rolling hills command spectacular views of Sydney and the Blue Mountains. To the south is bustling Cabramatta wqith its vibrant Southeast Asian ambience. To the east, Yennora and Villawood were the first suburbs to become industrialised around the time of the Second World War.
The Fairfield district is seen by many as a new settlement area and indeed its growth rate since the 1940s is unsurpassed in the Sydney region. However, its history of European settlement dates back to the First Fleet. Governor Arthur Phillip led a scouting party to the top of Prospect Hill in April 1788, less than three months after the First Fleet landed at Camp Cove. From this vantage point in the northwest corner of Fairfield City, Phillip caught his first glimpse of the Blue Mountains and noted that the surrounding countryside held great farming potential. Prospect Hill remained as an important landmark throughout the early years of the colony's development. Unfortunately it became an important source of blue metal in the late 1800s and, after more than a century of quarrying, it no longer dominates the surrounding landscape.
By 1791 there were several small farms operating around Prospect Hill. In 1804 Governor King awarded land grants to Major George Johnston and Captain Edward Abbott, in the Horsley Park/Bossley Park area for their role in quelling the Vinegar Hill convict rebellion. Other men from the powerful military and merchant classes, such as Simeon Lord, William John Brown and John Jamieson acquired properties in the area. The beautiful Horsley Homestead, built in 1832 by Johnston's daughter Blanche and her husband George Westton, is one of the few grand homes that once dotted the Fairfield landscape to have survived the destructive hand of progress. The Fairfield district also attracted people who were not so fortunate to begin with. Two successful men who arrived in the Colony of New South Wales as convicts were Dr William Bland and Joseph Kenyon, both of whom owned and operated significant properties in the district.
The first planned development in the Fairfield area was Smithfield Market Town. Land went on sale in 1841 for this bold entrepreneurial attempt to establish Sydney's major market place. Sadly for investors this venture failed but Smithfield was the main population centre until after the Great War (1914 - 1918)
A decision in 1856 to place a railway station at Fairfield, mid between Parramatta Junction (Granville) and Liverpool had far reaching effects on the subsequent development of the Fairfield area. The original stationmaster's residence remains as the oldest railway buildings still in use in New South Wales.
Several events occurring around 1890 heralded change for the Fairfield area. The completion of Prospect Reservoir, Sydney's first remote water supply, and the proclamation of the Municipality of Smithfield and Fairfield in 1888 provided fuel for change. Three years later the Municipality of Cabramatta and Canley Vale separated from Liverpool and the Granville-Liverpool line was duplicated between 1891 and 1894. While Smithfield was still the main centre for commerce, fairfield thrived as a resort town. Boating, fishing and swimming were available at places such as Latty's Pleasure Grounds on Prospect Creek, a mere ten minutes' walk from Fairfield Railway Station.
Small to medium-sized farms flourished during the first half of the twentieth century. Market gardens, vineyards and orchards flourished in the low-lying area, benefiting from the alluvial soil near the five creeks that rum through the Fairfield area. The land also supported more than its fair share of dairy and poultry farms. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century significant numbers of migrants from Germany, Italy and the Baltic states established farms in the area and became involved in community affairs. Guiseppe Zani was mayor of Cabramatta and Canley Vale in 1904. Names such as Serovich, Stein and Jentsch appear as Aldermen on the local Council's from the 1880s on.
By the 1950s, the creeks were dying from the effects of industrialisation and housing development. Although there was still significant rural activity until the late 1960s, Fairfield was, by this time well and truly part of Sydney's urban sprawl. Many people who spent their early time in Australia in migrant hostels at Cabramatta, Villawood and Liverpool chose to settle nearby. This, coupled with preexisting European communities and opportunities for employment in the many factories what were moving into the area, provided the basis for the multicultural characters for which Fairfield City is now famous.Aborigines
Aborigines of the Dharug tribe inhabited Sydney's West until white settlement. The particular band of the tribe that lived in the Fairfield/Liverpool areas, were known as the Cabrogal tribe. The name of Cabramatta is Aboriginal in meaning, and some believe that it takes its name from this tribe.Land Grants
The first land grants were made in 1791.With good soil and a network of creeks, pastoral properties, vineyards and orchards prospered for the early settlers. The first township was at Smithfield. The road between Liverpool and Parramatta passed through this township.The Railways
The first railway line went through Fairfield in 1856.The railway line would later support the timber industry, with several local sawmills. The subdivision called "Township of Fairfield" was sold in the early 1880's and commercial development was built upon this land. Fairfield would emerge as the main commercial centre, gradually replacing Smithfield.
The township of Cabramatta would become the other main centre, with the railway station opened in 1870, and the land subdivisions for the "Township of Cabramatta" auctioned in 1884.The Council
The municipal council of Smithfield and Fairfield was formed in 1889, and the municipal council of Cabramatta and Canley Vale in 1892.
After WW1 land sales and subdivisions increased, as did building activity.
In 1948 the two municipalities of Fairfield and Cabramatta and Canley Vale were amalgamated.Post WW11
Dramatic changes in the population and development of the area occurred post-WW11. Population increases and the expansion of the municipality resulted from the decentralisation of Sydney with the Cumberland Planning Scheme; The NSW Housing Commission purchasing large land areas; and migration.
The migrant camp at Cabramatta, acquired by the Commonwealth government in 1951, drew many migrants to the area of British and other European nationalities. Many of these people made their homes in Fairfield and established businesses. A number of clubs and places of worship for these nationalities would also develop.
In 1979 Fairfield became a city. By this time the arrival of refugees from Indochina had begun, and many were drawn to this area. In a relatively short period of time Cabramatta has become strongly identified with the Indochinese. The hard work and enterprise of many of these people, created in near to a decade a bustling commercial centre, likened for its shopping to Hong Kong.
Once known as a rural town, Fairfield is now mainly residential, commercial and industrial; though a lush rural area exists around the Horsley Park area.
Fairfield has played a significant part in our nation's history, as the new home for many of the country's migrants and refugees. Fairfield has been a canvas upon which cultural diversity has expressed itself in this country.Electricity
On 27 November 1920 the electricity scheme was brought into operation.
After the Second World War immigrants & refugees from war torn Europe and Britain were encouraged to make Australia home. Many of these people settled in Western Sydney creating a diverse cultural background. Following the Vietnamese conflict between 1961-1975 many refugees settled in Western Sydney particularly in the Cabramatta suburb of Fairfield.Ethnic and Cultural Diversity
There has continued to be an increase in the numbers, proportion and diversity of both Fairfield residents born overseas and languages other than English spoken in Fairfield. In Fairfield, residents represent some 133 different nationalities. 51.6% of the population were born overseas, with 47.8% born in non-English speaking countries.
This compares with:-
Western Sydney region where 31% of the population were born overseas, 23.7% born in a non English speaking country
Sydney where 30.1% of the population were born overseas, 21% born in a non English speaking country
There are over 60 different languages spoken in Fairfield
The cultural makeup of Fairfield is not only diverse but has been constantly changing over the past 50 years or more. The dominantly southern European immigration that was characteristic of the 1950's and 1960's gave way to immigration from Indo China, Latin American and Arabic speaking countries in the 1970's and 1980's. Most recently, there have been further arrivals of people from Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and other former states of Yugoslavia.Housing:
Fairfield has a housing occupancy ratio of 3.43 persons per dwelling, which is the highest occupancy ratio of any local government area in Sydney. The figure is 22% higher than the Sydney average, which is 2.81.
In Fairfield there are lower rates of Government rental (public housing), at 7.2%, than the Western Sydney average of 9.7%. Correspondingly, the rates of private rental in Fairfield are higher, at 15.9%, than the Western Sydney average of 6%.
There is a chronic shortage in public housing available in Fairfield, with ten times as many people on the waiting list than there are vacancies.
There are a number of services providing supported accommodation for young people, women and children, people with disabilities and homeless men in Fairfield. However, overall the numbers of places are small, particularly for young people.
Housing demand and "housing stress" are high in Fairfield and this reflects the lower economic status of the population generally.
Statistics: The total population at June 1996 is estimated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at 188,200 people.
Summary of statistics
Fairfield is situated 32kms south west of the Sydney Central Business District
Fairfield has an area of 100.54 square kilometers.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates the total population at June 1996 at 188,200 people.
Between 1986 and 1991 the population increased by 21,623 people or 14.1%.
Fairfield is ranked as the 6th fastest growing local government area in NSW. (Coopers and Lybrand - National Report on Population Growth Ranking in Australia, November 1993)
In Fairfield, 51.7% of residents or 90,438 people were born overseas in 133 different countries.
In Fairfield, 47.9% of residents or 83,794 people were born in a non English speaking country.
The increase in numbers of Fairfield residents born overseas from 1986 to 1991 was 20,813, or 33%.
There are over 60 different languages spoken in Fairfield, 60.1% of residents speak a language other than English.
In Fairfield, 15.7% of residents speak English not well or not at all, five times the State average of 3%.
There is a higher growth in the numbers of residents who are aged over 65 in Fairfield 30.9% compared with 21.6% in Western Sydney and 15.6% in Sydney
In June 1996 the unemployment rate was 14.8% in Fairfield, compared with 8% for Western Sydney and 7.5% for NSW.
Fairfield City Suburbs