Exploring The City of Melbourne – Part One
Melbourne is a city in Australia, the capital of the state of Victoria, and the country’s second largest metropolis (after Sydney). Spread in a great arc around the head of Port Phillip Bay, a major Mulching Mornington Peninsula indentation in Australia’s southern coastline, Melbourne occupies the lower valley of the Yarra River, on whose banks the central city rises 3 miles (5 km) from the mouth. The metropolitan complex covers 2,359 square miles (6,110 sq km), including the 12-square-mile (31 sq km) city of Melbourne.
Melbourne plays a pivotal role in the nation’s industrial and financial progress. Its economic strength derives from its status as a management center and, more recently, the adoption of affluent lifestyles with an emphasis on consumer spending and increased outlays on the cultural, educational, and leisure-time activities of its citizens as well as those of growing numbers of visitors. The city is the headquarters of major mining enterprises in distant parts of the continent and of industrial and transportation companies operating nationwide. Decisions made by financial groups on Collins Street have been the mainspring of much of the economic expansion that has reshaped the Australian scene since the 1950s.
Melbourne has extensive port facilities and is a focal point for rail, road, and air services. A major industrial center, the city has foundries, engineering works, oil refineries, chemical plants, textile mills, food processing and packing plants, automotive-vehicle and farm-machinery factories, and large printing establishments.
Character of the Metropolis
Melbourne’s physical elements are sometimes said to mix an earlier Boston and the new Los Angeles. Clearly Melbourne is derivative, with American, mainly Californian, overlays on an earlier British base. Numerous parks and widespread tree plantings soften its character by creating a leafy atmosphere, both across the suburbs and within the downtown section. The city has become increasingly cosmopolitan in population, more than one in four residents having come from abroad. Melbourne’s 150-year role as a livestock auction center ended in the late 1980s with the closure of Newmarket Saleyards, which decades earlier ranked as the world’s busiest in handling cattle and sheep. The annual sheep show, in July, remains a focus for leading wool growers, while Victoria’s unsurpassed strength in livestock husbandry is demonstrated each September at Melbourne’s Royal Show.
A spirit of rivalry persists between Melbourne and Sydney in matters from sports prowess to financial leadership. Sydney’s bold harborside setting confers the advantage of visual splendor; the Victorian capital, by comparison, relies on style and a studied elegance and ranks spaciousness ahead of showiness. Melbourne’s forte is the vastness and quality of its suburbs. An expanse of brick, tile-roofed houses reaches eastward for more than 30 miles (50 km) to the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, forming a tree-rich dormitory area replete with the latest in shopping centers and community facilities. This example of middle-class suburbia gives cogent expression to the Australian dream centered on “the bungalow and the bank balance.” The resident owners take pride in the well-tended lawns and flower gardens. Nurturing ambitions of security and financial advancement, they form a citadel of the progressive conservatism dominant in Australian politics.