Recently had the chance to travel down to Melbourne for the RSA AGM. Fantastic session with Dawn O’Neill and a few other very impressive speakers talking about collective impact, mental health and lots more. I’ll write more about this later, but I wanted to write about Melbourne in this post.
I’ve lived in Victoria for a few years, and for most of my childhood we were always heading down to Mount Martha to see the extended Heggart family, so it’s not like I’m completely ignorant of Victoria, but for most of that time I was very young and my priorities were very different than they are now. So it’s only recently that I’ve had a chance to explore as an adult – and the city, itself, remains mostly an unknown. What makes it even stranger is that it’s suburbs – Essendon, Hawthorn, Richmond, Footscray, Carlton, Collingwood are words that I’ve spoken and known for years – but more for the football teams associated with those names than the actual suburbs. Strangely, there are some strange coincidences here – I always thought Carlton would be full of passionate Italian restauranteurs because that’s what its supporters looked like – and, surprise, surprise, that’s actually what the suburb itself is like.
Anyway. Melbourne. First impressions: I like it. It’s a city that’s small enough to wander around in, which is always a place, but it’s also a city that’s honest about itself, and who it is. There’s no pretence in Melbourne – unlike Sydney. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there aren’t the show ponies in Melbourne, but I reckon there’s more to it in Melbourne. It’s kind of the difference between a race car, and a car that looks like a race car. You can have all the spoilers you like, and the flash mag wheels, but, if there engine doesn’t match, it’s all style and no substance.
Melbourne has substance aplenty. Late last night, we wandered through Fitzroy and Collingwood. My first thought was, I’ve arrived in Melbourne’s equivalent of Newton- home of the hipster. And sure, it is – there’s plenty of skinny jeans and flat caps and waistcoats and lurid makeup and it’s all surrounded by trendy bars and eateries (what the hell’s an eatery? A restaurant?). But there are plenty of people wandering through that don’t fit that category. And the trendy eateries actually know their stuff. The bars are not just a place for the beautiful people to hang out – they are actually craft beer distributors, locally sourced and quite tasty. In Melbourne, there is the engine firmly in the car.