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Victoria and the price of popularity

By David Scott - posted Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Victoria: it’s variously known as a state that’s “The Place To Be” or “On The Move”, depending on what licence plate you prefer. And it seems that not only Victorians, but people across Australia and internationally, believe the hype. The state is in the midst of a record growth spurt; the population went up by almost 77,000 in 2006-07, an increase of 1.5 per cent in just 12 months.

A growth in overall population by one million is expected by 2020, 10 years ahead of the State Government’s original estimates. And research completed by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Governance and Management of Urban Transport (GAMUT) in 2006 showed that while we may be on the move, cars remain our favoured form of transport to and from work (an increase of 70.1 per cent in the number of cars on the road since 1976).

Dr Carolyn Whitzman, from the University’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, says Victoria is clearly an attractive place for migration, especially for those after jobs and education. “Victoria is a really attractive option for students; we have good tertiary institutions that are teaching things that aren’t otherwise available in East and South-East Asia, and a third of people living in the City of Melbourne are students,” Dr Whitzman said.


“And I think that Australia, Melbourne in particular, has a good reputation as a tolerant country that is very liveable.”

Contrary to popular belief, the population boom has not come from interstate. In fact Victoria lost more than 2,000 people to net interstate migration in the last year. According to the latest Department of Immigration and Citizenship population flows data, the state’s top two source countries for immigration are India and China, with the UK and New Zealand not far behind that, with net overseas migration accounting for the majority of the state’s growth - more than 47,000 people - compared with almost 32,000 through natural increase.

The benefits of such rapid and expansive growth are many, according to Dr Whitzman.

“Some of the best, brightest and most enterprising people are ending up in Melbourne, and they’re changing arts, they’re changing commerce, they’re changing culture and it’s all for the positive, and to the benefit of people living in Melbourne,” she said.

“Australia, like many countries, is attracting young able-bodied workers who are going to support many of us into our retirement.”

In line with this year’s theme of the “Olympic Year”, Victoria is certainly going higher, faster. But is it making things better? Many of Victoria’s more than 200,000 public transport users would perhaps argue otherwise, and thousands of homeowners and renters alike have likewise been vocal in their angst in the current economic and social climate.


Their concerns about overcrowding are being steadily backed up by other critics, who go so far as to say that the record $1.8 billion promised in new infrastructure from last month’s state budget would only scratch the surface of what is needed.

These issues of functionality are becoming a pressing issue in many of Melbourne’s so-called satellite suburbs.

“The sustainability and infrastructure issues are the responsibility of all governments beholden, as they should be, to a populace which is reluctant to sacrifice a lifestyle which while comfortable, is tied in many cases to overpriced and poorly planned housing,” says Dr David Nichols, a lecturer in Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne.

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First published in The University of Melbourne Voice Vol. 3, No. 3 June 9 - July 13, 2008.

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About the Author

David Scott is a writer for the University of Melbourne publication, Voice.

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