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(3053, 2 km N, Melbourne City)

Once a place 'well wooded and grassed, well suited for a delightful rambling excursion', Carlton lies to the immediate north of Melbourne's CBD. Surveyed in 1852 by Robert Hoddle, Carlton's good elevation and natural drainage made it an attractive real estate prospect, a place that it was hoped would avoid the undisciplined growth of Collingwood and Fitzroy. Carlton now extends to Park Street, and is bounded on the east by Nicholson Street and on the west by Royal Parade and the University of Melbourne. Since its earliest days the suburb has included a range of residential, business enterprises and service institutions, and has witnessed many of the changes characterising Australian inner suburbs. It is also home to the Carlton Football Club.

The settlement of Carlton flourished between 1860 and 1880. Streets such as Drummond and Rathdowne streets became highly desirable residential locations. Churches, the University, the Royal Exhibition Building and the wide, well-designed streets, a generous allocation of public squares and extensive parkland all added to the suburb's early appeal. It was not to last. Property developers quickly subdivided the standard allotments, adding smaller streets and alleys until little remained of Hoddle's spacious plan. The area north of Princes Street (then Riley Street), North Carlton, was subdivided in the 1870s, but problems of sanitation, water supply and crowded living conditions soon began to affect the whole suburb and the health of its inhabitants. With the 1890s depression came the growth of slum housing, a trend that continued into the 1930s.

Working conditions were also poor. Small-scale textile and clothing workshops, scattered throughout Carlton, lacked ventilation, were poorly lit and offered no protection from industrial machinery. Hotel, brewery, retail trades, and building work provided the bulk of employment for other Carlton residents. Some notable firms were involved, including Carlton & United Breweries, Ball & Welch, and King & Godfree.

Many of the services located in Carlton serviced the wider Melbourne community. The Royal Women's Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Maternal and Child Health Centre, and the Carlton Refuge were all set up to cater for women needing assistance. The depressed living conditions of Carlton made it a ready target for social reformers who sought to improve the standards of sanitation, health and welfare of the poor. Children were a particular cause for concern and centres were set up to provide for their care: the Carlton Creche, North Carlton's Children Centre, Lady Gowrie Child Centre, and the Free Kindergarten, Bouverie Street.

Changes in postwar Australia had a significant impact on Carlton. The arrival of large numbers of Southern Europeans changed the population dramatically. From the 1920s Carlton had been home to a small Eastern European Jewish community, but by 1960, 25% of Carlton's population was Italian. The immigrants took the homes and jobs the Anglo-Celtic population had vacated and the retail trade of Lygon and Rathdowne streets soon reflected the change. Brightly coloured paintwork on redecorated homes, productive vegetable patches in front gardens, and coffee shops reflected a European heritage. The academic and student population increased, adding a strong literary culture to the mix. Novelists and playwrights also made their home in Carlton, and helped carve a space for the suburb in Australian folk memory and literature. Vincent Buckley's poem Golden builders, and Helen Garner's novel Monkey grip (1977) vividly evoke life in Carlton's streets, homes and cafés, while in theatres such as La Mama and the Pram Factory the work of playwrights such as David Williamson, Jack Hibberd and John Romeril had its debut. By the early 1970s Carlton boasted a vibrant literary culture, an atmosphere supported by Readings bookstore and the publishers and writers who called Carlton home.

Such changes did not save Carlton from the 'slum reclamationists'. In the 1960s high-rise housing estates were seen as the solution to Carlton's 'slum' housing. Residents were forced to sell their homes to the Housing Commission of Victoria. Some were forcibly evicted. Professional people attracted to Carlton because of its proximity to the city and the University and its varied, cosmopolitan lifestyle resisted the Housing Commission's plans. Working in conjunction with trade unions, the Carlton Association, formed in 1969, was successful in preventing further demolition. Parks were saved from reclamation and freeway plans stopped. The Carlton Association was also very involved in the social issues of the area: schools, the isolation of women in homes, the welfare of immigrant groups.

Carlton today remains a cosmopolitan suburb, housing a population which varies from the poorer inhabitants of the high-rise flats - usually the most recently arrived immigrant groups - to the wealthy residents living in the renovated Victorian terraces which line its streets. High rents have forced many students out of Carlton, but they can still be found in the book and coffee shops of Lygon Street. Many writers still reside in Carlton, or, like Arnold Zable, return there in their imagination, and continue to evoke its rich heritage. The hospitals, cinemas and restaurants of Carlton serve the welfare and social needs of the wider Melbourne community, who, along with tourists seeking a glimpse of the suburb's offerings, choke its streets and carparks, fill its cafés, and add to the vibrant social mix for which Carlton has become renowned.

Katie Holmes

Yule, Peter (ed.), Carlton: A history, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2004. Details