Guidebook A city is born

Sense of place

A city is born

Melbourne was created in 1835 when “the entrepreneurial John Batman” explored the shores of Port Phillip, chose the site for a village and “purchased” the land from the local Aborigines. “Within a year the township of Melbourne began to grow on the banks of the Yarra River,” explains Only Melbourne. By the 1850s it was a booming city. The reason: gold was discovered in the regions north and west of Melbourne -- more than £100 million worth of gold was extracted through the 1850s. “The streets of Melbourne were virtually deserted and, by early 1852, ships from all over the world were disgorging eager miners on the wharves of Melbourne,” says Only Melbourne

By 1854 the colony's population had grown from 80 000 to 300 000, the value of imported goods had reached an extraordinary £18 million, and everything needed for mining, from food to houses and equipment, was being shipped into the colony. In 1856 more than 86 million grams of gold were mined. This would form the basis for unprecedented development which would establish Melbourne as Australia's major financial centre and Victoria as an extremely wealthy colony.

“The news of gold discoveries in Australia captured the imagination of the world,” writes SBS, sparking a “massive influx of immigration to the young colony of Australia.” But because the colonial town was “unequipped to deal with the thousands of people arriving at its docks every day,” a canvas towns of tents sprang up in the south of Melbourne.

And, driven by migration, Melbourne has never stopped growing. “Seventy years of multicultural immigration has seen the population expand from 1.2 million in 1945 to 5 million” today, writes John Carroll in The Sydney Morning Herald. A total of 50 suburbs have been bolted on to Melbourne since 2006 and the latest strategy on the city’s growth predicts that the population, now at 4.3 million, is expected to reach 7.7 million by 2051, reports Oliver Milman in The Guardian — “Melbourne being roughly three times the geographical area of London with just a third of the population.”

Melbourne is the third largest Greek city in the world (after Athens and Salonika). But the “major difference between Melbourne and Greece is the culture: the social mores and customs, the economic practices, and a political temper that encourages individual responsibility and independence,” explains Carroll. The top five ancestries for people in Melbourne are English, Australian, Irish, Scottish and Italian, reports Population Australia. “The top five languages (other than English) spoken in Melbourne are: Italian, Greek, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Cantonese. The top six countries of birth for people in Melbourne are: Australia, England, India, China, New Zealand, and Italy.”

Sense of place
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