Take a walk down Bourke Street, under the gaze of Parliament House, and try telling a man sleeping rough on the pavement that he’s living in the world’s “most liveable city”.
You’ll likely receive a blank stare, a laugh or maybe even a flash of anger.
Melbourne might be a fantastic city if you’re lucky enough to have a secure, well-paying job and a stable place to sleep at night. We have the MCG (the “home of footy”), our laneways are iconic, our café culture is the envy of the world—and did you hear Guns ‘n Roses are playing here in February?
But this is Mirage Melbourne: a reality for some, but a mere dream for many others.
We can’t claim this mantle while population growth and a lack of affordable housing pushes families into far flung suburbs without adequate services or transport links.
We love our city, but the title is meaningless while kids from disadvantaged families can’t afford to play weekend sport and pensioners are deciding between food and heating.
Of course, this disconnect is no accident. The official criteria for “the world’s most liveable city”, as set by The Economist magazine, pay little attention to issues like poverty or disadvantage. They’re more concerned with business connectivity and “stability” factors (whatever that means).
As the old saying goes, “we don’t live in an economy, we live in a society”. Economic measures alone will never present an accurate picture of what’s happening on the streets and in the loungerooms of everyday people.
They only way to get that information is to ask them.
So let’s stop this annual self-congratulation about “winning” some silly title, and instead ask somebody who might be doing it tough what living in Melbourne is really like for them?
You might be surprised by the answer.■
Emma King is the CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Service.
– with Ryan Sheales