There is no Laburnum

They have no official status, but they exist anyway. They are Melbourne’s secret suburbs.

Recently I met someone who claimed to reside in Laburnum. Laburnum? He was having me on, surely. Having spent some of my formative years living in a beautiful rambling house at 42 Laburnum St, within easy walk of Laburnum Train Station and the Laburnum shops (Mum and Dad had also briefly considered sending my brother and I to Laburnum Primary School) I recognised this claim for what it was: a bald-faced lie. A deception. An inaccuracy.

As anyone familiar with the area knows, there is no Laburnum: that part of Melbourne falls within Blackburn, in the City Of Whitehorse.

If you glance at a Melways (a hardcopy version, preferably) you’ll notice that official suburbs are listed in capital letters. It’s all pretty straightforward.

Look a little closer and you might observe that some places are printed in lower case. Rather than official ‘burbs with their own postcodes, these areas are pockets, precincts, neighbourhoods and localities that for various reasons have had a different, individual moniker bestowed upon them.

Some of these are semi-official titles thought up, it seems, by some rather unimaginative government apparatchiks or construction company marketers. I’d put Beacon Cove, NewQuay, Waterfront City, Digital Harbour, Victoria Harbour, Batmans Hill, Kensington Banks and Yarra’s Edge into this category.

Other locality sobriquets are merely geographically descriptive. Epping North, Macleod West and Ascot Vale West fit in to this sub-group. Given how big some of these areas are, it makes sense to informally subdivide them.

Indeed, other locales seem to evolve in spread-out suburbs, where a modicum of differentiation is helpful. Bellevue, Deepdene and Greythorn in Balwyn; and Newlands and Merlynston in Coburg North could be examples of this.

There are a bunch of pockets based around train stations that are not named for suburbs. Hartwell, Jolimont, Newmarket, Syndal, Westgarth.  (I’d always just assumed these were all official stand-alone suburbs), Glenferrie, Merlynston, Macaulay, Rushall and Anstey are examples.

Mont Albert (originally just plain old Mount Albert) was a train station before it was a locality and then later earned official suburb status.

Part of Frankston, Karingal, meaning “happy home” or “happy camp” in an aboriginal dialect, was given its name in the 1960s when land in the area began to be developed, largely as an AV Jennings housing estate.

Merlynston had similar commercial origins. When in 1919 Donald Bain bought the 31 hectares known as Station Heights Estate west of Coburg North railway station, he subdivided it into housing blocks and renamed it after his daughter Merlyn. The station was subsequently renamed too.

Some Melbourne places seemed to have been unofficially sub-classified in an attempt to lift exclusivity; to redefine by their difference. Perhaps Gardiner (Glen Iris), South Kingsville, Glengala (Sunshine West), Westbreen, Westgarthton and Regent (Preston) come into this category. The name “Regent” simply exudes exclusivity, even if the locale itself may not.

Others have names derived from natural features; consider Mt Cooper and Coonans Hill.

So is there any harm in telling folks that you live in an area that doesn’t really exist – in saying Paisley when you mean Altona North, or Darling when Malvern East is more accurate?

Well, if mail or emergency services not being able to reach your abode isn’t an issue, then possibly not.

For many years before it was finally made official in 1999, the area south of Richmond Station bound by Swan St and Punt Rd was known and referred to as Cremorne.

We are talking about a small realm of some historical and cultural significance, home to the sprawling Cremorne Gardens established in the 1850s. Referred to as a “pleasure garden” (what we might call an amusement park), the area housed a menagerie of exotic animals, a bowling alley, cyclorama, and offered balloon rides.

Here was the official departure point for Burke and Wills’ infamously ill-fated journey. Cremorne existed as an entity long before the powers that be acceded to acknowledge it.

Perhaps by 2099 it might be Laburnum’s turn. By the way, did I mention that I grew up there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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