- Melbourne has long been a significant gathering place for Aboriginal Australians of the Kulin Nation.
- It has been named ‘most liveable city’ by the Economist six years in a row.
- Attracting major events and festivals to Melbourne is a priority for the state of Victoria, which views this as key to driving tourism and economic growth.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 9,991 sq. km
- Total population: 4,850,740
- GDP (PPP) million: $204,346
The area around the Yarra River was an important meeting place for members of the Kulin Nation before colonisation and the first white settlement in 1835, which began the city of Melbourne. Fewer than 20 years later a gold rush brought major immigration from Britain and began the first economic boom. The resulting late 19th century architecture still defines much of the city. The narrow laneways filled with boutiques, galleries and cafés, many exceptional arts institutions, a strong live music scene and an active outdoors culture give Melbourne a reputation as a creative destination. In 2017, The Economist voted it ‘most liveable city’ once again, for the seventh consecutive year.
Today, Melbourne is very diverse, with a population from more than 200 countries, speaking 260 languages and practising 135 faiths. Thirty-four per cent of the city’s residents were born outside of Australia. It is still expanding rapidly, and is expected to almost double its population within 20 years. Melbourne considers itself to be the ‘cultural capital of Australia’, with a creative output that includes being home to nearly 400 festivals and celebrations. Melbourne International Comedy Festival alone brings 700,000 people to the city over three and a half weeks. It also has a thriving live music scene with more than 550 live music venues and 50 vinyl record shops. In 2008, it became UNESCO’s second City of Literature. The State Library of Victoria is one of the oldest and busiest in the world; next door the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas offers 230 talks each year.
Gentrification in Melbourne means that many on low incomes risk being priced out of the city – including artists and those working in the cultural sector who have done much to shape and define the city’s identity. It faces risks from climate change, with rising temperatures, pressure on water supplies and threats of flash floods. With major urban renewal projects under way in areas including Fishermans Bend, Southbank, West Melbourne, Arden and Macaulay, the challenge is to ensure these developments deliver the mixture of hard and soft infrastructure, including creative spaces, to service its communities. At a national level, arts funding has experienced a period of decline. Meanwhile, as manufacturing declines in Australia, there are growing opportunities to be realised in the creative industries. Melbourne’s citizens believe the city should recognise the significant and unique history of Aboriginal people. This requires a shift, given an Aboriginal world view is not substantially evident in the city. In addition, many other cultures within the rapidly diversifying city have limited visibility and the large percentage of residents born overseas is not proportionally reflected in arts programming or the creative workforce.
As part of its ambitious creative strategy, which aims to define every aspect of life in the city, Melbourne aspires to make connections at a civic scale across disciplines and between public and private sectors. By harnessing creativity, it hopes to develop better approaches to tackling population growth, climate change, affordability, competition with other world cities and in this way build a great city for everybody.