Woodside was an angry community 18 months ago when Prime Minister Julia Gillard dropped a bombshell and announced that the old army housing estate at Inverbrackie would be turned into a detention facility for asylum seekers.
The decision took everyone by surprise, nobody had a say and plenty of people were upset.
The distress was understandable.
However, two Federal Government-commissioned, independent reports into the social and economic impacts of the facility now show that many of the fears, concerns and objections raised by residents never eventuated.
The studies found there has been no direct, negative impact on the Hills community and, in fact, the region is better off to the tune of $38m.
That’s not to mean all wounds are healed, concerns allayed and prejudices overcome but, to quote a local community leader commenting on the facility a year on, “the sky hasn’t fallen in”.
Delving into the reports provides some fascinating reading, particularly the education section where it documents the only real interaction between Hills people and asylum seekers – between students in the classroom and playground.
It seems the experience of interacting with people from another culture has created many academic and social opportunities for all students.
Our children could teach us a thing or two about living in a tolerant society.
Perhaps as we watch the dawn break over our war memorials today we could pause to reflect not just on the carnage of war and the sacrifice made by our armed service men and women, but the peace and freedom their sacrifice has given us.
That peace should never be taken for granted.
Others do not take freedom for granted.
They take desperate steps to escape war, oppression and poverty in their own countries and they seek asylum in Australia.
And they have been doing so since white settlement.
Australia has a less glorious history of behaving badly after every wave of migration.
New arrivals are treated with suspicion until subsequent generations are absorbed into the wider culture.
But we do adapt.
Today we celebrate our German heritage, we drive Toyotas and we eat sushi.
The Hills’ “Inverbrackie” experience could be a turning point for this region and became a chance for us to practise the Anzac spirit of mateship.