On Wog Palaces

Important Note: In Australian English the term ‘Wog’ – while historically a racist slur – has over many decades been reclaimed by the immigrant community and is now a marker of pride for Australians of Greek, Italian and Balkan heritage, and a neutral term for describing said Australians for the rest of us. With that cleared up, read on!

In the wake of World War II Australia found itself in need of workers, and unable to supply that need from traditional English and (slightly less desirable) Irish sources relaxed its horribly racist immigration policies a smidgen to let southern Europeans slip in as if they were proper white people. With Europe in ruins many Greeks and Italians took advantage of this and relocated, bringing with them exotic fruits and vegetables (broccoli? what the hell is broccoli?), proper coffee culture (Starbucks lost $165 million when they tried launching here in 2000) and food preparation techniques beyond ‘aggressively boiling into submission’, enriching the nation beyond all measure.

They also brought the distinctive architectural styling of the Wog Palace.

You are an Italian immigrant and decide to start a new life in Perth, Western Australia (if you were Greek you’d likely go to Melbourne). You arrive in a country where you don’t speak the language, you can’t get a decent coffee anywhere and the locals treat you with scorn and suspicion. Nonetheless you buckle down, work your arse off – likely in the construction industry – twelve or more hours a day, seven days a week and after some years have saved enough money not just to bring your family out from the old country, but to buy a block of land on the edge of the city and build a home for them. Naturally you do the labour yourself (with your kids’ help as soon as they’re old enough to safely pick up a brick) and after several years your luxurious new home is ready to move into. You have a Wog Palace to call your own!

So, what are the distinctive features of a Wog Palace?

Size: You have a large family to accommodate, and you’ve secured a large block of land, so you’re going to have five or six bedrooms, and plenty of entertainment space. It’s common to go double story, particularly if you decide to include an integral garage, and if you do include a garage why not make it a double? Some outbuildings for storage and food/wine production are also a good idea, and why not a swimming pool too?

Verandas and Balconies: What use is a house if you can’t sit outside in comfort and enjoy the view? On a two story Wog Palace you’ll have balconies. On a one story you’ll have a verandah instead.

Brick: The material of choice for a Wog Palace is brick. Preferably dark brown, but lighter shades will do in a pinch. Plastering over the brick for a smooth exterior can be done, but is a bit gauche.

Gardens: A productive garden is a must! Vegetable patches, olive trees, grape vines and fruit trees. These will usually be out the back because the front garden will likely have been concreted over for parking space.

Arches: Anglos may be content with right angles, but a proper Wog Palace will use arches instead. Arched windows, arched doors, arched verandas and balconies. Arches are class!

Pillars and Lions: Need a balustrade or something to stop the kids falling off your balcony? You need white, semi-classical pillars! And why not throw up some statues of lions to guard the place while you’re at it?

Low Pitched Roof: A subtle distinction but an important one. Anglo houses have steeply pitched roofs to prevent snow build up – which is not a threat in Perth’s Mediterranean climate and actually something of a disadvantage as they tend to trap heat in our blazing summers. The architectural tradition of the Wog Palace – developed in an actual Mediterranean climate – uses lower pitched roofs sufficient to shed rain without all that wasted space. The roof may even be flat enough to be used as an additional entertaining space in fine weather.

It is an entertaining game to look for Wog Palaces while driving around Perth. They’re a useful marker for the edge of urban development during periods of heavy immigration – which is why you can spot so many along Morley Drive and up in the Swan Valley. They are, in my opinion, some of the best houses even constructed in the city, and where I even in the position to upgrade from my apartment to a house I would definitely be on the lookout for one.

A few examples of Wog Palaces in their native habitat

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