Living in Melbourne is for many people one of the highlights of moving to Australia to a city which is vibrant, growing, and offers massive potential for expats looking to retire or start a new career. Situated in the state of Victoria, Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia with a population of around 4 million and a presence within the Australian economy which few other cities can match.
So what are the attractions for living in Melbourne and what can you expect if you are looking to move to the region?
Facts about Melbourne
As we mentioned above, Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia with a population of 4 million and is located on the south-east tip of the country. The largest municipality is often referred to as the City of Melbourne although there are a further 30 municipalities making up the metropolitan area surrounding the city centre.
The city itself has a history which goes back to 1835 and was the original settlement for the colony of Victoria which later became the state of Victoria. Those who have looked at the history of Melbourne will be aware it was central to the Australian gold rush back in the 1950s and quickly became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in Australia and was for some time, until 1927, the seat of the national government.
The climate of Melbourne
Those living in Melbourne will experience a wide range of changeable weather conditions as the city is located on the verge of hot inland areas and is also impacted by the cold southern ocean winds. It has some of the more bizarre weather conditions in Australia which can bring anything from thunderstorms and hail to very large temperature drops and heavy rain in a very short period of time. The average temperature in Melbourne and the surrounding areas hits a peak of around 26°C in January and February and a low of around 13°C on average in July.
However, there are enormous differences in the weather across the region, having experienced record lows of -2.8°C and record highs of around 47°C. This gives a perfect indication of the difference in weather patterns between Melbourne and the rest of Australia as a whole. The very fact that Melbourne can be one of the hottest cities in Australia and just moments later be one of the coldest and wettest cities in Australia is perhaps one of those bizarre attractions which have seen more and more people move to the region.
Demographics and culture of Melbourne
Back in 1836 when Melbourne was first created there were only 177 people living there although this had grown to in excess of 4 million people by the end of 2009. The city is also seen as one of the most diverse and multicultural in Australia with a large number of British and Irish still evident in the region as well as significant expat numbers from China, Germany, United States, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Bosnia and many other areas of the world.
This enormous mix of different nationalities has created a multicultural economy which has adapted to the needs of these various nationalities creating something of a cultural melting pot which continues to attract significant overseas and internal business investment. The area is commonly referred to as the cultural and sporting capital of Australia taking in comedy, music, art, sport, literature, film and television and is also home to a number of prominent media events throughout the year. It is also interesting to see that Melbourne has the largest number of international students per capita in Australia which bodes well for the future and the local employment market.
The Melbourne economy
Even though Melbourne is not the capital of Australia it features very prominently within the Australian economy with a particular emphasis on the automotive industry with the likes of Ford and Toyota very visible in the region. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the Melbourne economy which is very important to Australia as a whole and vital when attracting more and more expats and skilled workers to the region.
It is worth noting that because of the cities location on the coast it is home to the busiest seaport in Australia which handles around $75 billion of trade per year and over 35% of the country's container trade. Melbourne airport is also very prominent in the local economy being the second- busiest in Australia allowing uncomplicated travel in and out of the country for more and more international visitors.
However, as if this was not enough the city of Melbourne is also one of Australia's and Asia's more prominent financial centres and is a leading light in the superannuation pension fund industry which is very strong in Australia. The area is also home to many of Australia's best-known companies such as ANZ, BHP Billiton and National Australia Bank to name but a few and when you also take in the 7.6 million domestic visitors and around 2 million international visitors a year it is easy to see why living in Melbourne has its attractions. Tourism is becoming more and more prominent in and around the Melbourne region creating many jobs, attracting many visitors and ultimately helping the local economy to grow.
Transport in Melbourne
Not only does Melbourne offer one of the most comprehensive transport networks in Australia but it also offers one of the most comprehensive in the world. The network takes in trains, trams and bus networks not to mention road travel, sea travel and air travel. Indeed the tram network is the largest in the world and the train network is one of the largest in the world. The success of the Melbourne transport network can be traced back to the gold rush of the 19th century and the very relevant and very lucrative investment into a local transport network by the authorities of the time.
In simple terms, whatever mode of transport you choose you will never find a simpler and more uncomplicated transport network in the world. As we have touched on in earlier articles, the ability to travel easily in and out of the city centre has allowed many expats and skilled workers to settle just away from the city centre where property prices and the cost of living is markedly less than other areas of Melbourne. Unfortunately, as more and more skilled workers make for the region we have seen property prices begin to increase on the outskirts of Melbourne which has priced some Australian nationals out of the market place. This is an issue which the government will need to address not only in Melbourne but also in some of Australia's other cities.
Property prices in Melbourne
A quick glimpse at the facts and figures regarding some of Australia's more prominent cities shows that Melbourne has one of the highest rates of the local population who were born overseas. With a population of 3.8 million it is estimated that 35% of those living in the area are originally from overseas, with Sydney at 39% the only city in Australia with a higher percentage than Melbourne. As a consequence we have seen an increase in the number of skilled workers in the region which has pushed Melbourne property prices higher, in and around the city centre.
Despite the fact that Melbourne is seen by many as one of the more welcoming and more prosperous cities around the world it is worth noting that the median house price in December 2009 was approaching $520,000 and the median unit price is approaching $380,000. Perth and Sydney are the only other major cities in Australia where property prices are higher although as the population in and around Melbourne continues to grow and demand for property spirals yet higher there is every chance the gap could close in the short to medium term.
As a consequence of the ever increasing cost of property in hotspots such as Melbourne we are seeing the percentage of skilled workers in the region increasing over time. This has led to more and more investment from both overseas and national companies which is feeding into the growth of the Melbourne economy and improving the attractions for expats looking for a new place to live.
Cost of living in Melbourne
As with so many of Australia's more prominent cities, and the ongoing influx of expats to the region, the cost of living in and around Melbourne has risen significantly over the last few years. Even though Melbourne is seen by many as one of the more welcoming cities in Australia and has been voted one of the best areas for expats to move to in the world, this increase in prosperity and economic activity is something of a double edged sword.
As we touched on above, not only has there been an increase in the cost of property in and around Melbourne but the cost of living has also spiralled higher. There are some concerns that the ever-growing cost of living in cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, etc is pushing away Australian nationals and leaving more and more expats prominent in the region. It is the fact that many of Australia's employment sectors are still crying out for skilled workers in so many different areas which is feeding the inflow of expats. While slowly but surely this gap in the market is being filled there are concerns it could have long term consequences for the mix of expats and Australian nationals in the region.
Education in Melbourne
As more and more expats move to Melbourne and the surrounding area, many with young families, the need to ensure quality education has never been more vital. Thankfully Melbourne is something of a hotspot with regards to education offering not only a high standard of pre-schooling, primary schooling and secondary schooling but also some of the largest universities in Australia. As we mentioned above, Melbourne has the largest contingent of international students per capita in Australia a fact that is borne out by the University of Melbourne and the Monash University which are two of the largest in Australia.
The area is also becoming something of a hotbed for technology and is attracting more and more students of this subject and international companies looking to make use of these facilities. Even though many of Australia's more prominent cities continue to prosper it is Melbourne which appears to have taken a longer term view and despite being the centre of the automotive industry in Australia the authorities are still looking at new markets in which to break into, to create a steady flow of employment opportunities and income for the region in the future.
Socialising in Melbourne
Living in Melbourne and socialising in Melbourne has never been easier due to the vast array of multicultural elements in the region. As we mentioned above, Melbourne is seen by many as one of the most multicultural and diverse societies in Australia and as such there is literally everything available for different cultures within the walls of the city centre. Even though the employment situation in Melbourne is perhaps the most attractive element of living in Melbourne there is no doubt that the multicultural and diverse society also plays a part in attracting expats to the region.
Like so many of Australia's more prominent cities, Melbourne has grown in stature and size over the last 20 years or so. The economy is well placed for the future and despite earlier skills shortages we are seeing more and more skilled workers from overseas looking at living in Melbourne which is creating a firm base from which the authorities can plan for the future. While there is some anger at the ever-growing cost of property in and around the region this is one of the downsides of economic growth although it will level out at some point in the future.
Living in Melbourne is an option which many people around the world are looking to consider in the short, medium and longer term and Australia on the whole has never been more respected on the worldwide stage, offering excellent prospects for the future. At some stage we will see the Australian immigration policy tightened but with skills shortages still apparent in many areas of business this is unlikely to happen in the short term.