“We study the past to understand the present; we understand the present to guide the future.”

My first visit to Melbourne was in August 2008, I distinctly remember the drive from the airport into the city centre and my first impression of Melbourne was not favourable: the motorway undulated across a bleak and flat landscape, peppered with run-down industrial zones and barren of any lush vegetation. 

It was not until reaching the city centre that my feelings changed. The contrast between ultra-modern architecture and grand Victorian architecture took my breath away. The ding-ding of the trams and the tree-lined avenues evoked fond memories of European cities. The streets were awash with colour and people of various ethnicities, it felt exciting and cosmopolitan. I could not wait to escape from the confines of the taxi and explore all the lanes, streets and boulevards of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’.

Wasting no time and armed with a shiny new guidebook, my eager feet hit the footpath. When I saw the arcades and laneways I fell head over heels in love with the city and immediately knew that this was the place of my dreams. Living in a city is like a marriage – you are either extremely happy and feel at one with your partner or you are extremely unhappy and want a divorce. I wanted to marry Melbourne and divorce Auckland.

Stubbornly determined, the move to Melbourne was made on 2 April 2015, I was officially a proud Melburnian: enthusiastically embracing the culture, history and culinary delights of the city. I soon learned about the brave Tasmanians who founded the city, the famous ‘Hoddle Grid’ and the goldrush which funded the architectural marvels we see today. Alas, it wasn’t enough, my hunger to know more about Melbourne was insatiable. Walking the streets of Melbourne I would constantly wonder – what happened here? who lived there? What’s the story behind this building? a continuous cacophony of who, what, why and where!

Needless to say that there is very little information related to the history of the city to be found on the streets of Melbourne, besides a few insignificant Lilliputian plaques scattered here and there. One can be forgiven for thinking that the denizens of Melbourne couldn’t care less about the history of their city. A belief that was further endorsed once I started doing research for this book – I was saddened to find that many landmarks had been demolished, erased from memory, and it is still happening today. 

So what inspired me to write this book? Firstly, I want people to become aware of how important it is to treasure our history and the memories ingrained in the fabric of Melbourne’s culture. Secondly, residents and visitors need to know about the rich heritage of our lovely city. Thirdly, it is a labour of love – I adore Melbourne! We must celebrate the city’s humble beginnings, depressions, triumphs, growing pains and its bright future. 

Sydney Struwig

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