May 12 2014

Melbourne: A Culturally Segregated Melting Pot?

African specific food outlets are popping up all over footscray, Melbourne, Australia

African specific food outlets are popping up all over Footscray

A recent conversation with an esteemed Australian gave me some perspective on the issue of segregation in multicultural communities. Melbourne is one such community. The country of Australia has a distinct history of immigration that makes up the thriving population today.

Immigrants have built themselves up into being some very prosperous people in Melbournian society, but this, regardless of assimilation into “Australian culture,” has created some very distinct urban cultures that identify with a particular race, religion, or nationality. Some of these are Boxhill for the Chinese – where some newspapers and signage are published in Mandarin; Footscray,where Sudanese immigrants have been placed; and Prahran, where Jewish communities thrive with synagogues and Jewish schools being part of the urban architectural standard. The question then is, “Is segregation an inevitability?” International cities such as Melbourne – the most liveable city in the world! – and New York have toyed with the idea of the multicultural city where integration was inevitable and have apparently failed at this ideal.

There will always be a level of integration between communities where diluted ideals become apparent. One example are Muslim girls wearing their headscarf – and at the same time wearing heavy amounts of makeup. This dilution represents a loss of meaning within the host culture and the larger culture; the western culture in this example. The larger culture then eats away at the minority, thereby enriching itself with a new diversity, while the host culture is left with a tradition that over time transcends into nothing more than “something the old folk used to do.”

Most shops in the boxhill area have a Mandarin subtitle to them, Melbourne, Australia

Asian food stores in Boxhill

As a resident of this city, it is interesting to see how the increasing migrant population affects the culture of the city. Melbourne, currently, is far from being a Megacity with a population of only about 4.25 million people. The typical Megacity houses about 10 million people. This implies that it’s the natural progression into megacity status and thus will form the cultural identity of the inevitable “Megacity” title. Much like New York, Melbourne, as previously discussed, has developed inner city hubs of culture that will one day form part of an experience that may define a person’s life. This would put a child almost into an isolated cultural environment, cut off from the larger Melbourne culture. This, coupled with the plan for decentralisation of public amenities, as discussed in a previous post, would mean that there would be no need to leave this specific cultural city within the larger city of Melbourne.

Culture is something that can affect more than how a person lives their life, it can affect how they see the world. This cultural barrier may develop into a social and financial mobility issue, where people are unable to climb the ranks of life because of particular cultural shackles.

If Melbourne is to become a successful Megacity, thought must be put into allowing some sort of ubiquitous cultural marker that has the ability to bind all the residents of Melbourne together, while still allowing individual values to be present.

A New Yorker is a person who can be recognised around the world, could you recognise a Melbournian?

Credit: Images by Kunal Matikiti. Data linked to sources.

Kunal Matikiti

Originally from Zimbabwe, Kunal ventured to Australia to study architecture. After completing his Masters in 2012 at Deakin University, Kunal started working in Melbourne as a graduate architect at a small residential firm and has since moved to a bigger, and more commercially focused firm. With a keen interest in African Architecture, Kunal manages a small blog,, where topics range from art and culture to architecture and fashion in Africa. Kunal is looking forward to earning valuable experience in Australia’s booming architectural sector and develop the skills and thought processes required to resolve some of the issues facing the unestablished creative sector in parts of Africa. Understanding of culture is an important element of Kunal's work and this forms a major element in his endeavours. Writing for The Grid is an exciting challenge and Kunal hopes to give a different and interesting perspective to an already established city.

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 12th, 2014 at 9:47 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, History/Preservation, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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