God, guns and horses: the unusual suburb in Sydney’s wild west

Its sprawling residential estates, main-street gun shop and abundance of small churches may bring to mind a town in America’s old wild west. But the Sydney suburb of Horsley Park – about 10 kilometres north-west of Liverpool in the Fairfield council area – has a distinctly n flavour.

A few doors down from Horsley Park Gun Shop is Lolly World, which specialises in hard-to-find n sweets. On Saturday mornings, locals descend on the WithLove Cafe to grab one of its famed bacon and egg rolls.

Horsley Park has traditionally flown under the radar, but its profile received a boost when the results of the 2016 census were released. The data shows that Horsley Park is one of the most religious suburbs in – in fact, only 5.9 per cent of residents said they had “no religion”.

A whopping 87.7 per cent of Horsley Park residents are Christian, making the suburb more devout than Sydney’s traditional Bible-belt district of The Hills. And 61 per cent of residents classed themselves as Catholic.

Dominik Karnas, parish priest at Our Lady of Victories in Horsley Park, says the suburb has become something of a worship hub.

“Many Christians from around the area want to worship here,” he says.

Our Lady of Victories caters primarily to Horsley Park’s Italian and Maltese communities, which were established after WWII. Father Karnas suggests that these Mediterranean communities helped create a strong foundation for Christianity in Horsley Park.

More recently, Assyrians fleeing the Middle East have flocked to the suburb, building an Assyrian Catholic Church. “We still have plenty of land in the western suburbs,” Father Karnas says, making the region attractive to displaced communities from overseas.

Other places of worship in Horsley Park include the Spanish Community Bible Church and Chung Chen Chinese Christian Church.

But do the different denominations get together to worship and socialise? “Not so much,” says Father Karnas. “Perhaps on Anzac Day.”

According to Sargon David, an agent at LJ Hooker Horsley Park, the suburb’s large blocks and relative proximity to Liverpool are increasingly attracting affluent buyers.

“There are a lot of prestigious homes here,” he says. “We’re seeing businesspeople, doctors, solicitors ??? upper-class people. They’re buying blocks and building massive mansions. So many people want to move in here, but there’s not much stock available.”

Formerly rural or vacant property has become particularly sought after. “In the past couple of years, a lot of people have been looking for vacant blocks to build their dream homes,” David says. “They’re paying really good money for an empty block and then spending one or two million dollars on a house.”

The well-regarded Horsley Park Public School and the just-built St Narsai Assyrian Christian College may attract a growing number of families in the years ahead.

And unlike other parts of western Sydney, which have seen values begin to slide, “our prices have been stable”, says David. “If anything, they’ve gone up a bit.”

Horse-loving Sydneysiders may have visited Horsley Park without even realising: the Sydney International Equestrian Centre, the largest facility of its kind in , sits in the suburb’s south-east corner.

As for Horsley Park Gun Shop, its roots in the suburb can be traced back more than 30 years, when this part of Greater Sydney was predominantly rural. Today, it is one of the few gun shops in NSW and draws customers from across the city and state.

Sam Ghadib, who works nearby at Horsley Park Bottler, says the shop does not accurately reflect the interests of the suburb’s modern-day population. “It just happens to be there,” he says.

Ghadib’s family was part of a wave of migration from Iraq to the Fairfield council area in the 1970s and ’80s. He has been working at Horsley Park Bottler for 15 years and considers the suburb safe.

“In all that time, there’s never been an incident here at the shop,” he says.

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