The area was so new that when we first moved in that it wasn’t uncommon for salespeople to knock at the door in the evenings selling paintings or copper wall hangings for inside, and twisted metal mandalas for outside. All those square metres of brand new plasterboard and brick veneer in desperate need of decoration. The paintings were mostly black silhouettes of Australiany things against fierce red and orange backdrops – barns, windmills and trees against sunsets, the paint smeared on thickly and quickly. The copper wall hangings were abstract, rectangular shapes beneath stippled copper sheeting. Later we learned to make these at school (ask me if you want to know how). Because my father was interested in art he would look through everything on offer and equally, because he was interested in art, there was never the vaguest possibility that he would buy any of it.
Doncaster was so new that it was actually a swinging electoral seat, another new term that it introduced me to, with Mum explaining that that meant that voters like her and Dad played a vital part in deciding who would win the election.
For a time the voters of Doncaster were very important. As for the other swinging of the 70s, Mum told me recently that there were rumours of ‘wife swapping’ (why is it the wives who get swapped?). This talk swirled especially around the couple whose house was not only split level but had an actual sunken lounge room too.
Doncaster is a green and leafy suburb now, with a house on every block. The voting heyday of the area is long over – after the initial excitement it settled quickly into steadfast conservatism, a blue-ribbon capital L Liberalness. About the other swinging I don’t know, and anyway they were only rumours back then. Empty blocks sometimes appear fleetingly, and with increasing frequency, as another 1970s house gets pulled down and replaced with a bigger fancier house, one that stretches from boundary to boundary. Construction fencing goes up all around as the first step in the process – there’s no chance of anyone playing on the emptied block or in the half-constructed house.
Nowaday lots of people now use the park, which has been planted with many more trees, and boasts walking paths, barbecues and playgrounds. It also has the new fancier name of Ruffey Lake Park, and the part of the creek where we mostly played is now a carpark.
My parents still live in the same house. The concrete of the patio has been covered with terracotta pavers, and trees have grown all around, but you can still see Doncaster Shoppingtown from there. It’s several times as big now, a brooding grey mass taking over the hill. The old practical shops have gone, it is the new era of luxury brands. At night seen from the patio, its security lights make it blaze like my idea of industrial-military complex.