Living on the Outside: cultural diversity and the transformation of public space in Melbourne

Andrew Jakubowicz
Mara Moustafine


Melbourne has been described as Australia’s most liveable and most multicultural city. What relation do these descriptions have to each other? How has the public culture of Victoria been influenced by the cultural diversity of the state? The political class in Victoria has tended to be more in favour of multiculturalism as a policy, more resistant to populist racism and more positive about immigration than elsewhere in Australia. How has this orientation been affected by the institutional embedding of ethnic power during the past four decades? The organization of ethnic groups into political lobbies, which have collaborated across ethnic borders, has brought about cultural transformations in the “mainstream”. Often the public experiences these transformations through changing uses of public spaces. This paper offers an historical sociology of this process, and argues for a view of public space as a physical representation of the relative power of social forces. It is based on research for the Making Multicultural Australia (Victoria) project. ( An online version of the paper inviting user-generated comments can be found at

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