A Suburb in Transition
Over the years Footscray’s immigrant population has shifted from European to South East Asian to African and, to this day, it a place that still supports the occupation of new immigrant and refugee communities. Cultural histories can be read through the urban landscape, residues of past cultures are seen in the architecture, in the morphology, and in the signage and the people. The appropriation of the urban environment highlights the agency involved in creating a place which allows for the expression of distinct cultural identities.
As you move through Footscray’s public realm one begins to recognise another change in Footscray’s socio-physical landscape- one that is not additive but rather destructive of the suburb’s rich and diverse cultural-historical heritage. With recent urban renewal projects and the development of a number of high-rise multi-residential towers, the suburb is rapidly undergoing a process of gentrification. These urban renewal projects and high-rise developments are quite clearly marginalising existing immigrant communities- through solely investing in the newly arriving upper middle class.
Currently, the public realm is an inclusive place in which it is possible to negotiate the social differences which result from such ethnic, class, and socio-economic diversity. However, urban renewal projects are discounting this, manifesting exclusionary, culturally homogenous urban places and spaces.
The situation happening in Footscray has played out time and time again in Melbourne’s inner suburbs. Must we become passive observers to the destruction of one of Melbourne’s most culturally diverse and socially rich suburbs?