Localities and suburbs

The development of Melbourne’s suburbs and localities has been shaped by many factors, from the originating patterns of land alienation and subdivision, to the growth of transport and other infrastructure, topographical constraints, and local and community interests. The exclusiveness of some of the city’s smaller suburbs and localities may develop from different causal factors, but often becomes fiercely protected at a local level, and of course has an influence on property values. As the Age reports (Domain, 5 June 2016), Melbourne’s ‘secret small suburbs’ often ‘punch above their weight’:

And enclaves with a distinct identities and characteristics, including Regent (part of Preston) and Westall (within Clayton) and Croxton (on the cusp of Thornbury) have become real estate cliques. Urban historian Professor Andrew May, of Melbourne University, said these precincts have deep roots in early Melbourne, dating back to the 1830s.

eMelbourne entries record the origins and histories of a plethora of places in the greater metropolitan region.

From its origins in the 1830s down to the present day, Melbourne has been amongst the most self-consciously suburban of Australian cities. At the end of the 19th century it was already one of the most extensive areas of low-density urban settlement in the world; its residents were more likely to own their own detached homes than residents of most other contemporary cities and the suburban ideal, along with its assumptions of domestic privacy and bourgeois conformity, was already deeply etched in the city’s consciousness. Asking ‘What suburb do you come from?’ has long been a standard way for Melburnians to place each other, reflecting the well-founded assumptions that the city consists of nothing but suburbs, and that knowing where a person lives is a sure guide to where they belong socially. Only perhaps in the past two decades as suburban expansion has slowed, and ideals of urban consolidation have gained ground, has the long dominance of the suburban ideal been challenged, if not dethroned.

Map of Melbourne and Suburbs c. 1920s, Metropolitan Town Planning Commission (State Library of Victoria).

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