As published in the Westside Weekly Messenger.
Written by Mohsen Nazari.
Photo: Najafi Carpet Gallery owner Ramazan Najafi and News Corp’s Mohsen Nazari, who all marvel at the incredible changes that have taken place on Prospect Rd in Kilburn.
When News Corp’s Mohsen Nazari arrived in Kilburn as a refugee back in 2005, northern Prospect Rd was a “high-crime neighbourhood”. Over the years, Mo’s family has seen the street become enriched with Middle Eastern culture. Here, he shares the story of Kilburn’s changing face.
From a high-crime neighbourhood to the cultural hub it is today, I’ve watched the north of Prospect Rd in Kilburn go through a spectacular transition over the past 13 years.
I arrived in Australia as a refugee from Afghanistan back in 2003 and settled in Kilburn two years later.
I was nine years old and couldn’t speak any English. It was hard for my family to communicate to people or find what we needed. Asking for a grocery item, we would always pull out a Farsi/English dictionary and find what we wanted.
Kilburn was not the same as it is today. It wasn’t safe to walk out at night in the suburb. You could hear sirens every now and then and know what was going on outside.
This doesn’t mean we didn’t love the suburb, it was so convenient for us to get to school, everything was close to us and we would catch the bus everywhere.
Back then, the only supermarket that stocked foreign produce was the Vatan Supermarket on the corner of Hopetoun Ave.
Today, it is almost unrecognisable from those days.
Now the street is bursting with restaurants and shops on every corner and it boasts a rich and fascinating culture.
My people, the Hazara of Afghanistan, are a large ethnic group in Kilburn. They have opened more than a dozen businesses along the strip in the past 14 years.
Community leader Hussain Razaiat, who arrived in 2002, is amazed by changes he’s seen.
“During the time I settled in Adelaide, Kilburn was commonly known as a dangerous suburb. You would not be able to go out alone at night to shop,” Mr Razaiat said.
“The local community has been welcoming and worked along with new businesses during this transition (to a more multicultural suburb). It has brought safety, better quality of life, growth in population and shifted focus of local and state government fundings and support to the area.”
The small businesses that have popped up aren’t just from the Afghan community – Persians, Iraqis and other Middle Eastern groups have opened myriad stores, from retail and clothing to traditional products such as carpets.
“The businesses that have opened have brought new life and energy to the area, with the new IGA opening that caters for the local community,” Enfield councillor Michael Iammarrone said.
“It has benefited all Australians in the area, fertilised the northern side of Prospect.”
For many refugees like me, Kilburn has become a home away from home. Coming from a war-torn country, it has been an ideal place to settle because it was close to the city yet rents remained relatively cheap.
Najafi Carpet Gallery owner Ramazan Najafi said when he came to Adelaide from Melbourne, he found the area much more affordable and convenient.
“I saw the potential of Kilburn and love the community here,” he said. “I have seen the change happen around me and it makes me proud to be part of it.”
Now Kilburn has grown to such a hub that it’s easy for locals like me to dine and shop for products I never would have found a decade ago – and all close to home.
Some of my highlights include The Ghan Kebab House – my go-to for a weekend treat, Tasty Bread Bakery where I go for my daily bread and Rumi Palace for a fancy night out.
And the one that started it all, the Vatan Supermarket, is still going strong.