I grew up in Melbourne’s inner west in the 1990s, back when it was still a hotbed of heroin addiction and burglaries. Before it was cool. I’ve gotten a bit defensive about this since the area started becoming über trendy, because once upon a time no one knew where Yarraville was and I always had to define it by its proximity to Footscray.
“Oh,” people would say. “Oh.”
Now it’s all, “Yarraville’s so lovely! That must have been so great!” And I have to remind them that back in those days, Yarraville was basically the same thing as the rest of the west. Think Sunshine, think Braybrook. Explaining it all to people from the other side of the river, who just don’t understand, is the burden I bear for existing in an area before it started gentrifying.
But this isn’t a piece about the east/west divide or the development of my class consciousness, or even about that time in my creative writing class (at the University of Melbourne, for added context) our tutor asked, “Raise your hand if you’re from the eastern suburbs”, and I was the only person who didn’t. No, this piece is about a unifying oddity I have noticed in the various locales around Melbourne, not one specific to the west. From what I can tell, anyway. I lived in Heidelberg for a total of 6 months and found it weird. There were too many white people*, it was too far from the city, and it was just weird, okay? You can take a girl out of the west …