I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. Although I live in New Zealand now, I consider Sydney home and I still consider myself an Aussie. As Peter Allen sang: I still call Australia home. So I was REALLY looking forward to my lightning visit to this gorgeous city on our way through to South Africa.

We needed to drop into St George bank and whipped into the branch on the corner of Pitt and Market streets. We had literally just landed and hopped onto a train to Town Hall, rushed down Market Street to the branch and rushed inside. To be met with…..

Firstly, let me say in ALL my years of living in Sydney (which is considerable since I’m incredibly old) I have never really witnessed any violence. Okay a few drunk idiots outside the George Street cinemas many years ago who were throwing empty beer cans around. But nothing like witnessing a robbery or brawl. So it came as a huge surprise to us that we witnessed a dust-up in the St George Bank – a bank let me remind you. Hardly an exciting place for a brawl.

Here’s what happened. We were at a teller’s counter when we started to hear loud conversation going on behind us on the opposite side. The voices rose and I heard a man call someone a bastard and saying something about you have my money. I glanced around to see a scruffy 30-something individual take a flying leap and land on a Chinese man. A younger Chinese man was standing around looking helpless.

Time froze as they say. Everyone in the bank was doing that 30 second slow-motion thing – what the heck is going on? Then several burly men ran to the altercation, which turned out to be taking place in a glass-walled office. This branch is that open plan type bank – the one that makes me feel like I’m at a delicatessen or RTA. You know: take a number depending on your enquiry; sit down and watch until your number appears on the electronic screen; then go to the nominated counter. All rather impersonal and clinical.

Anyway. Turns out the older Chinese man was the bank manager and I saw him literally sitting on this man who was clearly very upset, disturbed, high on drugs. Take your pick. He was screaming abuse and the bank manager’s arm had been hurt due to his being flung up against a wall.

The hilarious thing is that the bank teller we had been talking to continued on as though nothing was happening. Behind him, controlled panic was happening. People ringing the police; customers wondering how safe it was to remain inside the bank; other bank staff rushing to help the bank manager and trying to restrain a fairly strong individual.

Customers then started talking to each other, trying to make sense of the situation and wondering when the police would arrive. Suddenly, about five police officers burst into the bank armed with guns and handcuffs. They pounced on the guy pinned to the floor. By this stage, I think he had three men sitting on him. The police pulled him up, handcuffed him and marched his ass out of the bank. I seem to recall the guy saying something like oh, here we go again. Guess he was a familiar face to the police.

El Hubs and I took ourselves off to Westfield in Pitt Street Mall and a stiff cup of coffee at Coco Noir. Later that day, we needed to return to the bank to inform them of the dates we’d be overseas – in the scuffle, we had forgotten to do this earlier. The staff member who ushered us into his cubicle area was the younger Chinese man who had been involved in the incident. He told us that the chap had been very upset (no kidding!) about his pension money not being available to him. The bank manager had to inform him that the bank could not help; that he would need to speak with the government department responsible (is that FACS, DOCS? what do they call themselves these days?). Apparently, this led to the explosion we witnessed.

I must say it rattled us both and El Hubs muttered that it was a good thing we were now out of Sydney as it was clearly becoming a violent place (a little bit of an overstatement me thinks!). But the staff member said that it was indeed getting somewhat violent in Sydney these days. I spent the rest of the day wondering about this. It’s possible that the level of drug and alcohol intake has risen but hey, you ought to check out New Zealand if you want to talk about high-levels of drug and alcohol consumption.

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I couldn’t get close enough for a decent photo but you can see the police outside St George bank; along with some passers-by wondering what’s going on.

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