Southbank’s hidden community

Southbank’s hidden community
Trisha Avery

It has been great to walk around the whole of Southbank during the past three years and observe how much amenity has been put in place for families and young people.

The amazing playground on the corner of Southbank Boulevard and Kavanagh St, the temporary basketball court at Melbourne Square and the family and children’s services at the Boyd Community Hub are fabulous, and we at Southbank3006 welcome these initiatives with open arms.

In fact, we are the first community group to provide a family-focused end-of-year celebration through our annual Merry Friend-Mas which attracts up to 1000 people and families to celebrate a non-denominational, and multicultural festive event.

However, if we were to look at the 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics census data, we would note that in 2024/25 the numbers of residents over 55 years would be around 4500 – around 20 per cent of the overall Southbank population. Interesting, huh!


So, what could the state government and the City of Melbourne do to provide greater amenities and improve liveability among this cohort, or are those of us over-55s, Southbank’s hidden community?


If we were to compare the amenity of this cohort to our closest non-CBD neighbouring suburbs, e.g. South Melbourne and South Yarra, what is the difference?

These suburbs have bowls clubs, public tennis courts, a community leisure centre with allied health facilities, restaurants frequented predominantly by local residents and great dog parks, which encourage engagement and connection between locals.

So, I hear you say, dear reader, “well what about the fabulous restaurants at Crown and along the river?”

However, these are tourist attractions, and we rightly acknowledge how fortunate we are to have these opportunities, as well as our amazing Arts Precinct and the CBD, on our doorstep. But do these amenities encourage local engagement among the over-55s?

A healthy community requires connection, and that is what has developed over the past few years for families and younger people in Southbank, and we are so glad about it. It is truly wonderful to see families engaging together, and Southbank3006 will always support and encourage these developments and interactions.

But what of this hidden 20 per cent of Southbank? Yes, they are “boomers”, but looking at you too, “Gen-X”, some of you are now over 55!

So, what of our shared needs for community connection? Would you like community leisure centres, the bowls clubs, restaurants, and coffee shops specifically for the 4500 of us that reflect our local precincts?

Of course, we know some of our buildings have great cafes and provide that connection, but just not enough to make the whole suburb feel that localised dynamic connection and focus for the over-55s.

It is true that there is a significant age range between say 55s to 85s, as there is between the infant to 30-year-old Southbankers, but as described here, a lot of work and focus has been placed on this cohort.

Hence, wouldn’t it be beneficial to find out what is needed to serve the community amenity of this older group? It’s worth noting that in the ABS data this group is mostly owner occupiers and, therefore, it could be presumed that they are in Southbank for the long term, so let’s enhance Southbank’s liveability for them.

We think it’s time the City of Melbourne engages with this cohort more precisely, not just to offer more open space and diverse sporting facilities, such as the ACCA forecourt park plans, Dodds Street Linear Park and the potential recreational precinct of the Kings Way undercroft, but to support more local businesses that target Southbank’s mature residents.

For example, could subsidies be offered to local cafes and retail, allied health and community groups to engage this dynamic group of our community and to bring a more localised focus to Southbank?

Let’s create a real community suburb, like South Melbourne and South Yarra (both of which have vertical living communities), which caters for all age ranges and interests.

We welcome your thoughts on this and any other ideas you might like Southbank3006 to focus on. •

Join our Facebook Group