From the Age
Emily Wright owns a busy cafe on High Street, Northcote, and has noticed a big change in the area’s demography since she took over Palomino three years ago. ”It’s a change in residents,” she says. ”There are a few less students and artists and things but there are lots more families because there are nice big homes in the side streets and space for kids.”
She and her husband, a professional sales manager, moved into the area in 2005 because it was close to the city and a ”great developing area”.
A Fairfax analysis of census data shows that several municipalities in Melbourne’s inner north and west are less disadvantaged than they were five years ago relative to the rest of Australia.
The Bureau of Statistics’ index of socio-economic disadvantage indicates a decrease in disadvantage in municipalities of Darebin (which includes Northcote), Maribyrnong, Moreland and Whittlesea.
The Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) combines a range of indicators of disadvantage to rank areas.
Through a combination of new housing developments and gentrification of existing suburbs, parts of these municipalities have attracted a different type of resident from their traditional working class populations.
However, these areas are still disadvantaged compared to many municipalities in metropolitan Melbourne.
Darebin and Maribyrnong have shown the most significant drops in disadvantage over the past five years but the improvements were not evenly spread throughout the suburbs of the municipalities.
And that’s what bothers Darebin mayor Tim Singh Laurence. In charge of applying for Commonwealth funding, Cr Laurence keeps a watchful eye on the municipality’s SEIFA data. The problem, he says, with analysing disadvantaged data across a city like Darebin is that there are huge discrepancies in employment and income among people who live side by side.
Cr Laurence believes gentrification in Northcote has statistically pulled the level of disadvantage down across the municipality, despite the poorest in suburbs such as Reservoir and Preston experiencing no improvement.
Monash University demographer Bob Birrell says the Northcote area is being transformed by the influx of new people.
”Professionals are moving into those areas and people who were there before, including migrants and some working-class people, are gradually being squeezed out,” he says.
Cr Laurence says the perception of Darebin as home to many of the state’s struggling families has been altered. This can have unfair results on services, he says, citing the recent announcement that the Legal Aid Victoria office in Preston will be closed later this year due to ”significant demographic change”. ”It’s sort of a case of which neighbours make you poorer?”
Demographer Glenn Capuano, of id Consulting, says Yarraville in Maribyrnong is another area undergoing gentrification.
”Yarraville, in the space of a generation, has gone from a poor, working-class area to one of the most desirable areas of Melbourne,” he says.
In Whittlesea, the decrease in disadvantage has sprung from new developments in Mernda and South Morang, while fortunes of more disadvantaged areas such as Thomastown remain unchanged.