Thursday, October 04, 2007

Are diverse suburbs vibrant or boring?

9000 Melbournians were asked to list the most boring suburbs in their city. The results? Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Melton and Footscray were voted the least interesting places.

If you live in Melbourne you'll know straightaway the significance of these results. Broadmeadows, Dandenong and Footscray are arguably the three most ethnically diverse, multicultural suburbs in Melbourne (Melton is an outlying satellite suburb).

For many years we've been told that it was the more traditional suburbs which were boring and that diversity would enrich them and make them more vibrant and interesting. As recently as August, Tony Calma ran this kind of line in defending multiculturalism:

Australia is one of the most diverse nations on earth ... The interaction between our cultures is producing new, exciting ways of life and relationships.

It seems that the very opposite is true. The more ethnically diverse a suburb is the more likely it is to be rated as boring.


  1. Heh.

    Those suburbs are boring because all the people are inside "hunkering down like turles."

  2. I'd find this easier to believe if I couldn't think of 100 other 'multicultural' places around the city, including Asian fisheries at Vic Markets, Greek vegetable sellers at Coburg marketplace, the crowd of Lebanese and Italian stores on Sydney Road (etc, etc).

    I've been to Dandenong but not Broadmeadows or Melton. (Dandenong and Broadmeadows reputation, from what I've heard, is not so much boring as violent).

    I'm not sure what exactly is meant by ethnically diverse - how is diversity measured?

  3. Some of those suburbs seem pretty far out, if not as far as Melton, with one being over by the airport, not exactly the kind of neighbourhood one expects to be particularly exciting. None of them are part of Melbourne proper, and if Sydney's outlying suburbs are any way to judge, I'd guess there's not a lot of substance to the survey. I mean, people here complain about Parramatta, which is pretty ethnically diverse, and as much as I can see their point, there's still a lively club scene, a wide array of restaurants, and some theatre. But suburbs are where people stay home; they work and play, often enough, elsewhere - so why wouldn't they be 'boring'?

  4. Greg, Footscray is inner suburban, but still made the most boring list.

    And why, if outer suburbs are boring for being residential, weren't other less diverse outer suburbs ranked as boring? Why not, say Ringwood or Aspendale?

  5. Not having seen the survey, I imagine the survey question was something like "Which suburb/s rate as Melbourne's most boring?". That's about the most negative adjective a survey by the Leader newspaper would have had the guts to use (ie they wouldn't dare ask "Which is Melbourne's worst suburb?" or "Which suburb do you hate most?"), therefore people just gave the names of the suburbs they attach the most negative qualities to. Virtually everyone understands that the worst suburbs in Melbourne to live are those flooded by the most recent (most "diverse" -- "different", racially) immigrants -- even if they fail to realize or admit that it's the immigrant people who degrade the quality of life in those suburbs -- so in response to "Which [is the most negative] suburb?", the Footscrays and Dandenongs quickly come to mind. So, it's not so much that diverse suburbs are "boring", in people's minds they are just "bad".

  6. Well, I've never heard of anyone describing life in Footscray or Dandenong as "good"; those are always suburbs people aspire move from, never move to. Simply, life there is understood to be tough, despairing, desolate. Life surely cannot be "fun" under such circumstances, therefore, it's "boring".

    That these suburbs also contain the largest numbers of newcomers is, as I said, usually thought by the average man on the street more or less coincindental or otherwise unremarkable.

    "Diversity", as a concept or an ideal, can still be considered exciting or cutting-edge or whatever, though. As long as the Sudanese aren't living next door, for example, "diversity" can easily remain an exciting idea, one understood to be somehow pepping things (the economy?) up.

  7. Personally i would much rather live in a non ethnic diverse suburb than a crap ethnic suburb like broadmedows or dandenong.

  8. Most people in these suburbs are poor. It is the poorness that makes the place boring, not the ethnic diversity. It just so happens that ethnicity and income are correlated.

    I am a factory owners and therefore I would prefer it if the government were more business friendly and allowed freedom for migrants to come over and work.

  9. Some Melbourne suburbs attract lower class uneducated boring migrants that's the reason new migrants degrade the suburbs they settle at. Areas where educated migrants settle in are not boring at all, look at McKinnon, Carnegie, Mentone. So conservatives, don't be narrow-minded, try to see the bigger picture like educational and cultural background. I don't think people coming from affluent Italian cities, from Athens or Istanbul are boring at all.