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Implications of a big austrAlia

I was born in Melbourne in early 1980. In this year, Richmond won the premiership, Australia boycotted the Moscow olympics, Australia's first test tube baby was born, Azaria Chamberlain disappeared, and Malcolm Fraser was re-elected for a third term. And Australia's population in this year was 14.7 million. 

On Tuesday 7 August 2018, Australia's population will hit 25 million (an average of 2.7% growth per year). The national population is projected to reach 38 million by 2050 (average of 4.1% growth per year). 

Melbourne has grown even more rapidly, from 2.8 million in 1981 to an estimated 4.8 million in 2018 (an average of 4.6% growth per year). 

I have always felt that Melbourne really is a 'liveable' city, framed by a magnificent winding urban river and the bay to the south. Unlike Sydney, all of Melbourne feels accessible (it is easy to travel via road or train from the north-south or east-west, for example). There are brilliant and large open spaces, particularly in inner-city and established suburbs. Melbourne has some of the world's best sporting infrastructure. It's arts and cultural precinct provides citizens and visitors with things to see and do (many for free) every day of the year. 

We are now in the early stages of an significant change process that will see Melbourne rapidly transform and adapt to a larger population - one which will fundamentally change the experience of life in this great city.

Many of the likely growing pains that the city faces need urgent, advanced thinking among public sector leaders to support the city to house and manage the daily flow for larger numbers of people. Public sector leaders (in collaboration with the private and not-for-profit sectors) are working to unlock land and prepare for significant housing growth, build/expand schools, improve road flow and management, supply faster and more regular public transport, sharpen law enforcement and associated court processes, promote reliable energy supply, improve social housing, continue to provide essential services for those in greatest need, and improve access to land for leisure, sport and active recreation, among other pursuits.

Some people will resent the scale of change underway across Melbourne; others will love seeing Melbourne become more like New York or Tokyo - a global city that never sleeps.

The tide of population growth in Australia and Melbourne is inevitable, save for drastic changes to immigration policies. Melbourne needs to think ahead and make the best of this new reality and the opportunities and challenges it will create. 

For 'big Australia' and 'big Melbourne' to work, we need to update antiquated and dilapidated service systems that worked in 'small Melbourne' but will not be sustainable in future. We need to better manage public land and use. We need a lifelong education system that provides opportunities for all to upskill and engage in the changing employment environment. We need (at an appropriate cost) road/rail and associated transport links. We need reliable energy supply and responsible usage that limit wastage of precious resources. We also need waste management systems and solutions that promote reduction & reuse before recycling. We need to share the diverse perspectives, backgrounds and world-views of Australia's people and their unique stories, and to overcome collective ignorance about Australia's Indigenous history and culture.

Melbourne should learn from other cities that have successfully made this transition.


There will no-doubt be periods of uncertainty and frustration as our public spaces and infrastructure are built. I have no doubt the change process we are under will be rewarding for so many (beyond those already here in Melbourne), so I welcome its benefits in an already heavily populated world.  I look forward to seeing Melbourne evolve over the coming years.