WARWICK FARM IS a small, easily ignored suburb in southwestern Sydney, thirty kilometres from the city, where a large replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge sits outside Peter Warren Automotive on the Hume Highway. Outsiders know it for the racecourse that shares its name, but to those who live in the southwest, it’s ‘the Farm’, a suburb with a heavy stigma, a place where drug dealers, gamblers and prostitutes live. ‘
People think it’s really bad, a place where no one amounts to anything,’ says Lisa Buchanan, who grew up in Warwick Farm and now works in childcare at Liverpool Neighborhood Connections.
About 4,500 people live in Warwick Farm, and for many of them generational unemployment, drugs, crime and making ends meet to afford food are part of daily life. The 2011 census data shows 15.7 per cent of people in Warwick Farm are unemployed, this compares with just over 2 per cent in the harbourside suburbs. More than half the population in Warwick Farm has no formal qualification.
It’s the place where NSW Police identified an organised child prostitution ring in 2012. The alleged ring leaders were two sisters, aged twenty-two and nineteen, who were trafficking homeless girls, as young as twelve, to men in southwestern Sydney.
The Liverpool Local Area Police Commander, Ray King told the Sydney Morning Herald last May, ‘These are children that have been abused and manipulated… We don’t know how they will be in twenty years. It’s quite traumatic. It’s probably an underbelly of our society today that this type of issue or offence can occur.’
Visiting Warwick Farm can be a shock to the uninitiated, a stark contrast from the privilege that characterises much of Sydney. A dilapidated shopping centre offers a corner store, take-away food and a bottle shop. The shop at the end of the strip is painted off-white, its windows barred and a sign in the bottom corner noting it is a doctor’s surgery