Divergence and convergence in a second city: The case of Geelong, Victoria

Prof. Louise Johnson

 

The Australian urban system is shaped by its historical origins in separate moments of colonisation and dependent development. Six very separate colonial and then state capitals were established to become dominant primate centres. But there were other cities and towns, with distinct local economies, identities and cultures. These foundations are now shaping their current economic and social restructuring in particular ways.

Geelong, population 250 000, is Victoria’s second city. It is well connected but overshadowed by Melbourne, with its population of 5 million. The cities share an economic history. Both cities were strongly dependent on manufacturing during the 20th century but as this sector declined, they have had very different responses, with Melbourne seeking global city status as a regional finance, events and migration centre. In contrast, Geelong has built upon its identity as a regional “Pivot” with a sense of difference built upon its waterfront, wool exports, textile and car industries and recent growth in service sector employment – particularly in health, education and insurance. It is a pattern of economic convergence but also social divergence. While connected to Melbourne for employment and migrants, the city retains a distinct cultural identity, most evident in its football team but also in its governance structures, which have effectively mobilised community and business interests to secure state largesse and harness local enterprise. This paper will document the processes by which this second city has successfully transitioned from a manufacturing to service sector city while maintaining its separate identity.


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