Melbourne Hotpot

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I enjoyed a short Easter break in Melbourne which, being my first trip anywhere for well over one year due to lockdowns and border closures, was an eye-opener for me. We stayed in Carlton at the northern end of the city, an area previously known for Italian migrants, great coffee and al-fresco dining in Lygon Street, which has now been taken over by Gen Z Chinese millennials who live in new high rise apartments, study at nearby Melbourne University or RMIT, and eat at new local hotpot restaurants (which immediately transport you to Sichuan province – see photo taken at the entrance to Panda Hotpot in Victoria Street, Carlton)

Melbourne has been transformed in the past 2 years and, according to the Guardian, is “now the closest it has been since 1930 to overtaking Sydney as Australia’s most populous city” having grown by 80,100 new residents to a total of 5.2 million in the 12 months ending 30 June 2020. From what I can see, a large majority of these new residents are young Asian students and their families, which is transforming and rejuvenating the city, particularly in the areas north of Melbourne Central, and creating a vibrant multicultural community full of unfamiliar looking supermarkets, shops, cafes and restaurants.

From my experience and observations (having first visited in 1978), Melbourne was always regarded as one of Australia’s most conservative and traditional cities, and it therefore comes of some surprise and delight to see the new diversity and multi-ethnicity which has taken place in recent times (although my Melbourne friends will say it’s been changing for years).

It is a timely reminder for me that Australia is changing rapidly, and the very small slither of society that we project to the world via our political leaders in Canberra, can only be regarded as temporary and short-lived. In all this talk of the “China threat”, decoupling and foreign influence, it must be remembered that Australia is an Asian country, and has gone out of its way to encourage and welcome Asians to migrate here and build their homes in our major cities, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney. Living in a vibrant democracy, these new migrants and their families will one day start to have a strong influence on the ethnicity, views and attitudes of our politicians and business leaders, and we will all be the better for it.

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