The personality of Melbourne

When we think of Australia, we conjure up images of the outback and its vast expanse of red desert, kangaroos and poisonous reptiles. We think about tanned bodies on beaches and odd men in tan-coloured outfits, wrestling crocodiles and entertaining us with their peculiar antics.

And when we think of Australian cities, Sydney immediately springs to mind. Sydney, the city that was recently propelled into the global spotlight by its incredibly successful 2000 Olympics, seems to have become Australia’s central tourist destination.

And yet, what is often ignored – or rather forgotten – is that besides Sydney, Australia is home to some of the world’s most impressive cities. Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth have all established themselves as some of the best cities in the world in which to live. And the best of these? For the second year, Melbourne has been voted the world’s most liveable city, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit, the leading provider of country, industry and management analysis.

A frequent target of mockery by Sydneysiders, Melbourne topped the EIU’s recent survey of 130 cities, narrowly beating out the other four Australiacapitals surveyed. Similar to the United Nations’ quality-of-living surveys that ranked Canada above all other countries for six years running, the award was based on a survey of a city’s infrastructure, accessibility, education levels, crime rate, focus on the environment, culture and events, its diversity and how connected it was with the rest of the world.

Surprisingly, the little known city of Perth finished a very close fourth, with Adelaide and Brisbane right behind in sixth and seventh places respectively. Sydney, with all its flair and recognition, lost ground due to its rising crime rates, falling just short of the top 10 to land in spot number 11. 

Traditionally, there has always been a friendly rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. In the late 19th century, both cities competed for national capital status, with the southern state capital declaring itself as Marvellous Melbourne. After years of harsh words and fierce competition, a diplomatic solution was found by selecting a site somewhere in between. So, in 1908, a small city was actually designed and constructed to form the nation’s capital (and the answer to a great piece of trivia): Canberra.

But the harsh words and jokes exchanged continue to this day. In fact, during my time in Australia, I heard many jokes from some of my Sydney mates about Melbourne – comments such as the only good thing to come out of Melbourne is the Hume Highway. What they failed to realize, of course, was that the same joke works in Melbourne, as the highway links both cities.

And if this all sounds vaguely familiar, you have only Canada to look to. There was once a great rivalry between Montreal and Toronto – a similar competition for national capital status and a resulting compromise called Ottawa, also geographically centred between the two.

Melbourne may not share Sydney’s esthetic charms (such as the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and beautiful white beaches), but what it lacks in recognizable landmarks, it makes up for in personality. It was dubbed “marvellous” for a reason.

Established in 1835 by a group of Tasmanian entrepreneurs, Melbourne was meticulously planned from the very beginning. Its far-sighted founders envisioned a great city with an abundance of parks, wide roads and boulevards. Today, it retains these original ideals and combines them with modern architecture and innovation. Melbourne is an invigorating and forward-thinking city that excels in cultural diversity, love of the arts and a great passion for its sport.

In Melbourne, life is good. And that’s how it should be. Although I had a heated affair with Sydney, it was in Melbourne I could see myself settling down.

Someone once told me that character is how you act when people aren’t looking. Often it is those who are overlooked that have the ability to surprise and impress. And for a city like Melbourne, consistently ignored and overlooked, it’s a pleasure to see such an enduring character finally recognised.

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