I came back with a lot of thoughts from Melbourne Conversation, so at some stage I hope to write them all up. The topic was The Place of Students in Central Melbourne: Cash Cows or Community Members? and all I can say was that the research and the discussion in general was highly interesting. The room was at full capacity so much so it was a standing room.
First off, let me start by saying our very own Metroblogger, Janice was on the panel. She did a great job, and the audience roared in many praises after she was done. Her situation with regards to housing, was pretty dire – heck, the local newspapers picked it up over the weekend. Before the panel, she was a little fidgety (first public appearance?) but she held the crowd really well. Wish she’d use the microphone! Kudos Janice!
My first thought (in a series, I’m sure): the Carlton Residents Association. Wish their website was a lot more updated. A representative came there and spoke when the floor was open, and basically referred to certain buildings in Carlton as ghettos. Even the moderator had to tell her that she should be careful with her word usage. She tailed off, and basically said “there are too many of them” (sure, I’m paraphrasing). I don’t think many folk like her very much…
Personally, I think that the residents are not averse to change. Carlton is changing. Melbourne is changing. Saying there are too many students, is plain silly. If 37% of inner-city residents are foreign, and in the northern fringes it hits 50%, hello, do you realize what its doing for the economy in these areas? What about the surrounds. Sure, this is me supporting the cash cow argument, but have no international students, and suddenly realize the economy isn’t the same any longer.
Off the tangent of the Carlton Residents Association, the moderator did ask if anyone felt that students were not being treated like cash cows but actual community members. No one could support that statement. Everyone in the audience (and I’d say it was made up largely of the non-student population) agreed that they’re cash cows. That, is just plain, nasty.
Back to Carlton. Anyone read Carlton: A History? I’d be interested to see what Fay Woodhouse wrote in the chapter titled Students. I’m sure a lot has changed in Carlton from 2004 (publish year), like rent might have gone up 100%, but it’ll still be interesting to see what was said then.