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Has this observer got Melbourne right?What do you think?
http://www.theage.com.au/news/opini...d-on-its-sleeve/2007/06/13/1181414372160.html
The city that wears its head on its sleeve

Clare Wright
June 14, 2007

Melbourne's future is about how it values and conserves its past.

A VISITOR to Melbourne once commented on the scene that greeted him: "Here the swart Briton … walks shoulder to shoulder with the flat-faced Chinaman, the tall and stately Armenian, the lithe New Zealander or South Sea Islander, the merry African from the United States, the grave Spaniard, the yellow-haired German, the tall, sharp-visaged Yankee, and the lively Frenchman."

"In fact," he noted, "Every state in the world has its representative in the diggings of Victoria and the streets of Melbourne."

This is the Melbourne that a delighted Robert Caldwell discovered in 1853. Apart from the reference to the goldfields, and the somewhat politically incorrect portraits, we might easily recognise our own city.

In 1861, a pioneer historian mused that the gold rush had transformed Melbourne "as if by the wand of a magician, into one of the most bustling emporiums of the world". Later historians, such as Graeme Davison in his classic Marvellous Melbourne, have demonstrated the metropolis' cyclical capacity for spectacular material progress and the equally remarkable human costs of such phases of affluence and decline.

I think one of the great strengths of Melbourne as a city is its willingness to expose its underbelly. Melbourne has never been a showy place — even its Commonwealth Games spectacle used a duck rather than sequins to focus the world's attention.

Melbourne is a serious place. Much as Manhattan has made anxiety and neurosis a centrepiece of its cultural attraction, Melbourne has proudly worn its head on its sleeve. And part of this intellectual approach has been a critical tone — in public conversations, political debates and planning decisions.

I'm not talking about an effete, disconnected critical practice of cultural elites that is about pushing artistic boundaries or cutting-edge design practices or other "high" culture abstractions. I mean more of an Oxford Dictionary definition of critical: that is, containing or involving comments and opinions

that analyse or judge something in a detailed way. I mean showing a continued willingness to ask hard, significant and sometimes provocative questions, and being prepared to listen to uncomfortable, unsettling answers.

So if you ask, 'Who wins?', you also ask, 'Who loses?' If you ask, 'What can we build?', you also ask, 'What will we be tearing down?'

If I sound like a wowser, a spoilsport, a wet blanket, a naysayer, well, Melbourne has a proud tradition of those too.

When we talk about identity, the hard and provocative question is this: if this is who we are, who aren't we? Is Melbourne just Carlton and Fitzroy, all sleek black clothes and exceptionally good coffee, or is Melbourne Broadmeadows and Box Hill and Boronia too?

Identity is a tricky issue. Defining a nation or a city's fundamental characteristics and values is always going to be a process of exclusion. Yet the concept of identity is often employed as a unifier, something that will bring us all together. Hence the easily digestible, comforting notions of national identity we hear — top-down, parrot-like — such as "mateship" or "relaxed and comfortable". Or quick marketing fixes like "world's most liveable city". There might be an initial flurry of pride in hearing ourselves so described, but then a stoush with a neighbour, or a glance at our mortgage balance, or an hour spent in a traffic jam listening to talkback radio, we know we're being weasel-worded again.

History, I think, can be an antidote to the sort of social disintegration — real or perceived — that boosterist labelling and apple-pie values aim to counteract. Our shared history is what genuinely unites us, across age, class, ethnicity, race and gender. Well told, honestly reported, sensitively signposted, the past belongs to all of us. And it remains perversely hostile to public relations consultants. The beauty of history is that it is inherently complex, multi-layered and diverse.

One of my favourite books is a children's picture book by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins called My Place. It looks at the same city block over 200 years, revealing the changing inhabitants and uses of the natural and built environment. As the layers of paint

are peeled back from a simple terrace house in the inner city, we see waves of migration, three wars, vibrant industrial landscapes reduced to concrete car parks, streams become canals and then drains, and an indigenous population exiled, only to return, transformed but still there. My place turns out to be everyone's place.

In planning for Melbourne's future, we must have serious regard for its past. We need to determine what places are important to us, and why. These might not just be textbook National Trust edifices that reflect past glories and prosperities, but also more seedy sites of protest, tragedy and pain. Conservation and restoration always involves choices. And there are limitations to the resources: money, space, competing visions, contested terrain. But my hope is that for every scientist, architect, engineer and interior designer empowered to determine what our future Melbourne looks like, there will be an historian consulted too.

It would be too up ourselves to call Melbourne "the thinking person's city" — and, as I've suggested, I don't like tags. But we should steer clear of magic wands, avoid cheap shots, be suspicious of quick fixes, and always have the courage to ask the hard questions. Honouring and respecting what lies beneath, rather than always searching for the pot of gold, will ensure Melbourne approaches its future with integrity.

Dr Clare Wright is a research fellow at La Trobe University. This is an edited text of a talk given last night as part of the Future Melbourne forums.
 

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Every time I venture north I'm reminded that all the money in the world can't buy back Sydney's soul.

I was at that meeting, it was very interesting, and I'd highly recommend others go along, particularly to the built environment related one!
 

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When we talk about identity, the hard and provocative question is this: if this is who we are, who aren't we? Is Melbourne just Carlton and Fitzroy, all sleek black clothes and exceptionally good coffee, or is Melbourne Broadmeadows and Box Hill and Boronia too?
Some of these places are more Melbourne than the others, and some of these places are more of Melbourne than the others. Is there a difference? I say no.

One of my favourite books is a children's picture book by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins called My Place. It looks at the same city block over 200 years, revealing the changing inhabitants and uses of the natural and built environment.
Oh come on, My Place is a book about Sydney. Can't Dr Clare say our name three times into a mirror without conjuring a hook-handed spectre of the Emerald City? :)
 

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Some of these places are more Melbourne than the others, and some of these places are more of Melbourne than the others. Is there a difference? I say no.
I would say they are definitely part of it. Western Sydney's multicultural sprawl is as much a part of Sydney as the harbourside mansion suburbs.
 

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Saw Bluelist Australia on SBS last night. The episode: "Best Places to get a Culture Fix & Top Spots to Take the Plunge" rated some interesting places but the number 1 was Melbourne Alleys. I was quite suprised as I was expecting a story about the many clubs, bars, and cafes in these alley ways but the story was about the culture of the art on the walls.
I have a better appreciation of this art and learnt something that I pass most days.
Check out their website: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/bluelistaustralia/index.cfm?fa=main.tvShow
 

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Why do you feel compelled to carry this article everywhere you go? And, most concerning of all is that you feel the need to provide a link to said article with no commentary - as though the article speaks for itself. How does your article contribute to this thread?

I agree with you Mickeebee, we need a new moderator. And please someone with a less feral looking avatar.
 

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Chip on my shoulder (BBQ)
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Quote

[Clare Wright
June 14, 2007



"Melbourne is a serious place. Much as Manhattan has made anxiety and neurosis a centrepiece of its cultural attraction, Melbourne has proudly worn its head on its sleeve. And part of this intellectual approach has been a critical tone — in public conversations, political debates and planning decisions.

It would be too up ourselves to call Melbourne "the thinking person's city" — and, as I've suggested, I don't like tags. But we should steer clear of magic wands, avoid cheap shots, be suspicious of quick fixes, and always have the courage to ask the hard questions. Honouring and respecting what lies beneath, rather than always searching for the pot of gold, will ensure Melbourne approaches its future with integrity."


Um, isn't this a contradiction? On the one hand comparing Melbourne to Manhattan FFS and talking about it's intellectualism, whilst on the other hand urging the need not to be "up ourselves".

Gotta love academics, they can publish paradoxical theories and still not be held accountable. :lol:
 

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I agree. The article doesn't seem to have any depth - it's just a lot of points thrown together with no direction. It's amazing such pointless dribble is ever published - it seems to undermine the academic's integrity.
 

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Quote

[Clare Wright
June 14, 2007



"Melbourne is a serious place. Much as Manhattan has made anxiety and neurosis a centrepiece of its cultural attraction, Melbourne has proudly worn its head on its sleeve. And part of this intellectual approach has been a critical tone — in public conversations, political debates and planning decisions.

It would be too up ourselves to call Melbourne "the thinking person's city" — and, as I've suggested, I don't like tags. But we should steer clear of magic wands, avoid cheap shots, be suspicious of quick fixes, and always have the courage to ask the hard questions. Honouring and respecting what lies beneath, rather than always searching for the pot of gold, will ensure Melbourne approaches its future with integrity."


Um, isn't this a contradiction? On the one hand comparing Melbourne to Manhattan FFS and talking about it's intellectualism, whilst on the other hand urging the need not to be "up ourselves".

Gotta love academics, they can publish paradoxical theories and still not be held accountable. :lol:
If you read it properly it is not actually comparing Melbourne to NYC in any likeness.
 

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Sure she does/did - saying that Melbourne wearing its head on its sleeve is comparable to Manhattan's celebration of neuroticism or something like that!
 
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