Monday, November 28, 2011

Most Liveable Melbourne Suburbs 2011

In 2005, The Age commissioned Tract Consultants and ACIL Tasman to conduct a study called Liveable Melbourne to rank Melbourne suburbs according to their liveability. The assessments are based on 14 indicators which include crime levels, CBD proximity, coast proximity, train stations proximity, tram line density, bus stop density, traffic congestion, school proximity, shopping facilities, cafes and restaurants, tree density, size of local cultural sector and topographical variation. Each suburb is given a score of 0 to 5 (from poorest to best performing) for each of the 14 indicators. Click here to read the methodology used.

This study which covers 314 suburbs, is updated in 2011 by Tract Consultants and Deloitte Access Economics for The Melbourne Magazine and The Age. Click here to view the full rankings. The 2005 data is available here.

South Yarra once again topped the chart, having achieved a total score of 51 out of a possible 70 maximum, albeit 2 points lower than its 2005 score. The least liveable suburb is Hallam, southeast of Dandenong, which obtained a total score of 13. We do not know whether Hallam was at the bottom of the rung in 2005 since the 2005 survey only revealed the ranking of the top 150 suburbs.

An article in The Age gave the author's experience after he had visited South Yarra and Hallam, in an attempt to find out how close to reality the top and bottom rankings are. Apparently, he had encountered difficulties getting people to talk to in South Yarra and had discovered the beautiful people in Hallam. On income measures alone, South Yarra and Hallam actually do not differ that dramatically. According to the 2006 census, 16% of Hallam households have annual income of more than $94,000 compared to 34.9% of South Yarra households while 24% of Hallam households live on less than $30,000 a year, compared to 21.3% of South Yarra households.

This study is not the only effort to compare the liveability between Melbourne suburbs. There are at least 3 other similiar attempts by 9msn, and Walk Score. The first two depend on user ratings while Walk Score, a company established in 2007, computes the Walkability Index for any address in Australia, Canada, United States and New Zealand. Let us see what are the scores churned out by these 3 sites for South Yarra and Hallam. You can click on the score to go to the reference page.

Rating SiteSouth YarraHallam
Liveable Melbourne 2011 Justifications (14 indicators)5113
9msn (maybe less reliable as it only has 3 indicators,
including affordability)
5.98.7 ranking list - ranks Highett first,
followed by Somers, Williamstown, Bonbeach, ...
(Ranked 191th)
Walkability Index (only considers proximity to amenities)10063

I am surprised by the numerous positive comments on the 9msn site for Hallam, which run for 5 pages and include:

Having lived in many states and suburbs I find Hallam to be a little green haven away from the city rush. Great amenities it is a little gem unknown to a lot of Melbournians.

A fantastic place to live with a real sense of community. Great services and facilities for families. Loads of playgrounds, parks, great kindergartens and schools. Lots of trees, close enough to the city and country alike.

Moving to Hallam is the best thing I've ever done. Hallam is always active, there is never a lack of culture and all year round there is always things to see and do.

I think Hallam is one of the best area is fantastic close to everything and major freeways fantastic shopping center, I am telling this cos I been around and if I rate Hallm it will be 9 out of 10. good not many know about this secret place.

Now, Hallam has made it big on the media, though not in the way as desired by its residents.

The ranking of Footscray at 37th place, higher than Canterbury (48), Middle Park (61) and Malvern East (62), has in particular led many people to question the validity of this survey. Footscray is undoubtedly close to the City and has many shopping amenities. However, it does have a notorious reputation in terms of crime levels, disorderly appearance and drug use, where more than 40,000 needles are exchanged every year and sniffer dogs patrol the train station (Ref 1). We often shop for asian groceries there and my wife has repetitively said she would never consider living there, despite the convenience of stocking fresh food supplies.

West Footscray is ranked 55th. I used to drive along Eleanor Street (highlighted in this article) to bring my wife to the obstetrician's clinic opposite Western Hospital. Everytime, I could not help feeling suffocated by the dense housing, small land lots, narrow streets, almost non-existing nature strips and lack of trees and open spaces. This feeling also applies to many other streets in West Footscray. The only things I enjoyed are the roses and germanium that were in bloom in front of many weatherboard houses.

Altona is ranked a pathetic 184th in this Liveable Melbourne study, behind Braybrook (95th), South Kingsville (96th), Seaholme (116th), Maidstone (153th), Noble Park (161th) and Seabrook (163th).

Seaholme is a suburb enclosed within the bigger suburb of Altona. Both have the same postcode 3018 and I would say share the same characteristics and environmental factors. I believe many residents of Seaholme identify themselves to be part of Altona and treat Pier Street as their main street. It puzzles me why Altona and Seaholme are separated by 72th places in ranking. Strictly speaking, Seaholme is closer to Mobil Refinery than Altona, has one train station (Seaholme) compared to two in Altona (Altona and Westona), has one school (Seaholme Primary) compared to 5 in Altona (3 primary and 2 secondary schools) and has much less shopping facilities. Altona has the Pier Street Shopping Precinct, Harrington Square and shops along Somers Parade, Ford Street, Upton Street and Civic Parade near the Millers Street roundabout. In reality, Altona and Seaholme residents do not distinguish between themselves, preferring to say they collectively have 3 train stations, 6 schools and so on.

The higher ranking of Seabrook above Altona is an enigma. The Age has this to say about Seabrook: "Improved open space and provision of cafes and restaurants has helped outer south-western Seabrook rise 68 places since the 2005 Liveable Melbourne survey, although the greatest change was an increase in proximity to bus lines. It scores well on congestion, open space and proximity to coast."

Seabrook is further away from Melbourne CBD, being located west of Altona Meadows. The only way for it to access the outside world is through Point Cook Road, a mostly 2-lanes road (one lane per direction), which is very congested during peak hours as this is the only channel of conduit for many residents of Point Cook and Altona Meadows. The nearest train station is Aircraft accessible via the flyover across M1 but most people prefer to drive further away to the Zone 1 Laverton station. A major complaint among residents in this area is the infrequent and inadequate bus services. Seabrook residents will have to drive to Altona to access the beach. I am wondering when did poorly-serviced Seabrook start having so many amenities, restaurants, schools and open spaces such that it outperforms Altona or even Altona Meadows and Point Cook which it borders with.

The Age has this comment on Braybrook: "This maligned inner-western suburb has limited open space and tree cover, plus high crime, but these are offset by low congestion, great proximity to schools, shopping facilities, cafes and restaurants. Braybrook is also (relatively) close to the city and the beach." I would not desire to live in a place with high crime rate, limited open space and tree cover. Braybrook is no way near the beach. You will need to drive at least 21 minutes to reach the nearest beach at Altona or 23 minutes to Williamstown Beach.

The higher ranking of Noble Park than Altona came in as a surprise to me because I am aware that it has been placed in the same basket as Dandenong, Broadmeadows, Footscray and Frankston, which people have traditionally avoided due to their affliction with crime problems. It is also pretty far away from the Melbourne CBD, requiring a long commuting distance either by car or train.

SuburbsLiveable Melbourne 
2011 Score (Rank)
Score (Rank)
Altona29 (184th)8586.86 (117th)8.1
Seaholme35 (116th)7085.48 7.4
Footscray 45 (37th)9084.67 (144th)7.1
West Footscray 42 (55th)9063.17 (288th)5.8
Braybrook38 (95th)6583.79 7.3
South Kingsville39 (96th)6088.896.4
Maidstone35 (153th)7294.17 (17th)8.7
Noble Park32 (161th)6383.05 (167th)7.0
Seabrook32 (163th)4593.95 (19th)No rating yet

As you can see from the above table, Altona achieves high performance on the Walkability Index and the two user rating sites, which makes it difficult to reconcile with its low ranking on the Liveable Melbourne study.

The 2011 study did not reveal the breakdown of the 14 indicators for each suburb. But the 2005 study did, so it is possible to see how Altona was being assessed for each indicator.

Indicator Score
Proximity to coastline 5 Agree.
Proximity to CBD 3 Agree. Note that Altona is 13 km from Melbourne CBD.
Proximity to train stations 3 The train track runs through the centre of Altona, dividing residential Altona into roughly equal northern and southern half, meaning that all parts of Altona have good access to the 3 stations of Seaholme, Altona and Westona. So I will have to disagree with this rating.
Tram Line Density 0 Agree. But I feel the importance of tram is overstated. I know the tram journey between St Kilda and Melbourne CBD can be frustratingly time-consuming despite their proximity.
Bus Stop Density 1 Altona is serviced by 3 bus services, including SmartBus 903. I think all western suburbs and perhaps also many eastern suburbs do not have bus services that are sufficiently frequent, reliable, fast, have wide area coverage and good connectivity that will make residents give up their cars and depend solely on public transport.
Size of local cultural sector 1 Altona has its own Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre (Fine Arts), Altona City Theatre (Performing Arts), Altona Homestead Museum (local history and cultural heritage), annual Beach Festival, street markets, many sports and community clubs as well as public art displays and permanent artwork. I feel that a score of 1 is not justifiable.
Proportion of congested roads 5 Agree. Unlike other suburbs, Altona does not have throughput traffic.
Proximity to schools 0 6 schools (4 primary and 2 secondary schools), of which at least 2 are well-regarded, serve a population of about 10,000-11,000 (all ages). The fact that the Liveable Melbourne study does not consider the reputation of the schools, just the proximity, makes it even more baffling as to why Altona was given a score of 0.
Shopping facilities 4 This is probably valid when compared to suburbs like South Yarra, Footscray and Box Hill. A good news is Altona will be getting another supermarket in Pier Street North, in addition to Coles in Pier Street South and Foodworks in Harrington Square.
Proportion of open space 5 Agree - there is abundance of open space, including the Beach foreshore, Cherry Lake Reserve, Altona Coastal Park, Apex Park, Truganina Coastal Parklands, Logan Reserve, Kooringal Golf Course and many reserves.
Tree Density 0 Definitely will have to disagree with this. I had previously lived in Carnegie. I would say there are no less trees in residential Altona than in Carnegie. If there is scarcity of trees, Altona would not have become a haven for birdlife.
Topographical variation 0 Agree. I am not convinced that this should be given the same weighting as other indicators.
Provision of cafes and restaurants  0 I have to disagree with this rating as Altona does have a number of cafes and restaurants at Pier Street and other locations.
Crime levels 1 The burglary rate for Altona from 2009-2010 is 0.76%, almost half the average rate in Victoria (Ref 2). I feel very safe in Altona and find it difficult to agree with the "1" score.

Just based on my knowledge of Altona and several other suburbs, I have discovered a range of issues that require explanation and re-analysis. I will not be surprised that such anomalies exist for other suburbs as well.

I believe at least one assumption of the study methodology is problematic and can be improved. It does not make sense to assign equal weighting to all the 14 indicators. For example, topographical variation is certainly not as important as crime level. Although it may be more aesthetically pleasing to have undulating landscape, this does not greatly impact on the liveability of an area. The research team could actually conduct a preliminary survey, say with 500 persons, to ascertain the relative importance that should be attached to each indicator and whether there should be a change in the type and quantity of the indicators.

A very important constituent of a place's liveability, which is omitted from this study, is its people and communities. Though it is not impossible to devise measurement criteria and methodology, it will require considerable resources and cannot be built upon from existing government data. Nonetheless, the validity of a suburb's liveability will be compromised in the absence of this indicator. The exclusion of affordability and living expenses from this study is controversial as I believe this is a factor included in the ranking of the world's most liveable cities. Why wouldn't we extend this criterion to a city's suburbs? If I can pay less rent or mortgage interests and buy cheaper groceries in the suburb I choose to live, wouldn't this raise my quality of living as I have more disposable income to spend on say luxury items, holiday and dining out?

I doubt the research team actually inspects individual suburbs but instead relies solely on armchair analysis of data obtained from other sources. These data may be inaccurate, incomplete, outdated or do not take into account the specific circumstances of each suburb. The deviations of Altona's assessments from the actual realities could be attributed to Altona being comprised of not only a residential part but a very large industrial part to the north. This industrial part has no school, train stations, few trees and other amenities. If you divide the number of such amenities by the total land area of Altona, you will get a very low amenity density indeed. However, all sensible people know that you should be distinguishing the residential part from the industrial part and not to lump them together. The centroid of Altona will have to be the centroid of solely "residential Altona", not encompassing its industrial chunk. Otherwise, the measurement of distances to its train stations, schools and other amenities will be highly erroneous.

I would advise that potential home buyers and renters take the results of this study with a pinch of salt and not to completely depend on it to guide their home search. Otherwise, you may write off certain suburbs, such as the lowest-ranking Hallam, which may appeal to you despite what the study suggests. The best way is still to visit the suburb and talk to the local people to have a feel of whether you like the suburb or not. This is precisely what I did in 2007 when I paid a visit to Altona and I have not been disappointed with my decision since then.


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Largest Antenna in Altona

A researcher from Deakin University was at the Time Beacon in Truganina Park, sampling tagged ravens to determine their flying distances. This is the highest land point between Melbourne and the You Yangs mountain ranges.

The "Largest and Highest Antenna" in Altona

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Altona Seaweed Control

The washing ashore and buildup of seaweed on Altona Beach has been a recurrent problem, due to factors such as a rim of seagrass meadows along its shoreline, seasonal algae growth, mass water movement, rain leaching excess nutrients into the bay, weather and light conditions.

It costs Hobsons Bay Council about $300,000 annually or $61.33 a tonne (as at 2010) to remove the seaweed. The seaweeds are left on the beach to dry, during which it emits an unpleasant odour, before being collected by trucks and taken to Wyndham tip about 3 times a week. Over the last 5 years, an average 4,500 tonnes of seaweed has been collected annually. With tipping fees scheduled to rise sharply, the council needs to find another more sustainable alternative.

The consultancy firm GHD, commissioned by the Council and funded by the Department of Sustainability and Environment in 2009, proposed 4 options to remove the seaweed. These 4 options are shown according to the order of preference in the following table.

1$1.19m over 10 years + No dumping feesPump seaweed from the water and transport it offshore via a barge to a vessel where it can be converted into liquid fertiliser.
2$750,000 + Dumping feesPump seaweed into an industrial waste bin, which would filter the weed and send water back into the bay.
3$1.6m over 10 years + Dumping feesUses the Hurricane Cargo Hovercraft, which can travel on sand and water, to rake washed-up seaweed back into the shallows, vacuum it through a filter and empty the seaweed on the beach for removal to a tip or organic recycling plant.
4$4.9m + Dumping feesEmploys workers to manually collect the seaweed.

The Council eventually decided to trial the first option for 12 months. After putting out a tender, the Council awarded the contract to a Laverton North biotechnology company Cassa Bio-Tec, at a cost of $44 per tonne of seaweed or about $176,000 for the 12 month period. Cassa Bio-Tec had previous success of using enzymes to catch and digest Northern Pacific Seastar into liquid fertilizer. This is a starfish that feeds on mussels, scallops and other marine animals and plants, resulting in a 40% decline in fish stocks in Port Phillip Bay.

Cassa Bio-Tec will carry out the following:
  • Collect the seaweed using a vacuum pump mounted on a shallow draft barge.
  • Separate it from seagrass,  which goes into stock feed.
  • Wash it with recycled water to remove sand, which is then returned to the sea.
  • Convert the seaweed into nutrient-rich liquid fertiliser (containing magnesium, selenium and boron)  using its own formula of natural biodegradable enzyme. One tonne of seaweed produces roughly two tonnes of liquid fertiliser.

All sound good and promising. But the results did not turn out as intended after a few months of trial. The high content of sand in the material being collected greatly reduces the efficiency of recycling the seaweed. This has resulted in many tonnes of seaweed being sent to landfill, costing the Council about $74 per tonne.

Cassa Bio-Tec suggested the Council look at getting a Trommel, a machine that helps to separate the sand from the seaweed during the collection process and make the seaweed easier to recycle. The State Government had decided to contribute $43,780 to the purchase of the machine, which is made by a Queensland company. The council will pay the remaining half of the cost. Trommel is expected to save about $83,000 a year that the Council now spends on seaweed disposal.

The Council collected 1286 tonnes of seaweed in 2009-2010, 3389 tonnes less than the previous financial year. Melbourne University marine biologist Dr Gerald Kraft said the massive reduction in seaweed along Altona Beach as well as in other parts of Victoria could be due to a huge population explosion of sea urchins, which feed on seaweeds, thereby reducing their presence dramatically. I think the use of biological control could be another complementary option worth investigating, if this does not adversely affect the marine ecosystem.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Filming in Altona

Following up on the Filming in Hobsons Bay post, I am collating in this post the movies, TV programs and commercials that were filmed in Altona.

My Year Without Sex (2009)
Photo of the film family's weatherboard house in Altona

This Australian film, written and directed by Sarah Watt, opened in the 2009 Adelaide Film Festival and was officially released on 28 May 2009. Set in Altona, it is about a 30+ couple Natalie and Ross (played by Sacha Horler and Matt Day) with their pre-teen kids Ruby and Louis. After Natalie suffers a brain injury, she is advised to abstain from sex for 12 months.

Watt said she wanted to make a film without a sex scene, after her 2005 film Look Both Ways which won her recognition. "I didn't want to be coy and just avoid it, but once we started playing with that title, the whole thing became about sex. My ideas were so broad, about anxiety and non-sustainable consumerism and how a non-ruling-class family were coping with how to save for the future and the uncertainty in the work force."

This film received strongly favourable reviews, touted by The Sydney Morning Herald as possibly the best 2009 Australian film and by The Age as the most accomplished 2009 local film.

As with Look Both Ways, My Year Without Sex deals with the impact that serious illness has on individuals and relationships. The two films are reportedly part of a "proposed trilogy". Unfortunately, we will not see this happening as Watt had passed away on 4 Nov 2011, after a long battle with cancer (Ref 1).

Bogan Pride (2008)
Article 1, 2, 3, 4

This 6-part musical comedy TV series, first screened on SBS in 2008, is written and starred by Rebel Wilson, one of Australia's most talented and popular comedy actors. The series is based on her experiences growing up in Sydney's western suburbs. The comedy was filmed predominantly in Altona and Laverton, with the school scenes being filmed at Sunshine Secondary College.

Set in the fictional suburb of Boonelg, the show revolves around an obese girl Jennie Cragg (played by Wilson) living with her extremely overweight mother Berenice, who is confined to her living-room chair. What does a bogan girl do? She will enter a local dance competition hoping to win $10,000 for her mum's stomach stapling operation. She hopes to impress her good-looking neighbour Nick whom she has a crush on and get revenge on the school skanks. She will also deal with the antics of her Aunt Cassandra, who has become increasingly annoying since her gay husband left her, learn to become closer to God with the help of a few lesbians, sell bonsai cats and try to win a Maths Olympiad.

The closing scene of the show sees the cast dancing along streets in Altona, which attracted a lot of attention from locals (Ref 2). Click here to view the Dance Battle Video. Note Harrington Square in the upper left photo below.

Dance Battle - Harrington SquareDance Battle 1
Dance Battle 2Dance  Battle 3

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (2012)
Article 1, 2, 3

Produced by Fiona Eagger and Deborh Cox, the 13 one-hour episodes of this detective drama series will screen on ABC1 in 2012. Miss Phryne Fisher is a 28 years old "female James Bond" in the bestselling series of Australian author Kerry Greenwood, whose 18 novels have sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide and have a very loyal following. Fisher is played by Essie Davis and this series also stars Nathan Page (Underbelly, All Saints), Miriam Margoyles (Babe, Harry Potter) and Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Cloudstreet).

Phryne was born into a poor family in Richmond. After finishing school, she ran away to France to joine a French women's ambulance unit during WWI, receiving a reward for bravery and a French war pension. The deaths of several young men in the same war enabled her father to inherit an English title as well as its associated wealth. This made her an Honourable with an enormous fortune, when her father died. She then worked as an artist's model in Montparnasse after the war. After several years, Phryne moved from England to Melbourne temporarily in 1928 to investigate a possible poisoning for a family friend. She enjoyed the lifestyle so much she stayed on in St Kilda permanently.

Through the course of the books, Phryne adopts a personal maid Dot, two daughters Ruth and Jane whom she rescued from slavery, a cat Ember, a dog Molly and two loyal servants, the Butlers. With Dot and her assistants Bert and Cec, Phryne solves all manner of crimes. Phryne is no ordinary aristocrat, as she can fly a plane, drives a Hispano-Suiza sportscar, wears stylish Art Deco clothing and sashays through the backlanes and jazz clubs of late 1920s Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit. But behind the façade of elegance and charm are the scars of the past which drive Phryne to find justice for those who can't help themselves and to pursue the truth of her own dark history.

She also has relationships with a string of lovers, most notably Lin Chung, a wealthy Chinese man whom she rescues in the city one evening. Lin is the only lover with whom she maintains a relationship for more than a few books and even goes so far as to make a deal with his grandmother that when he is married, she be allowed to continue a relationship with him. Li Pen, the bodyguard of Lin Chung, is the only Shaolin monk in Australia with a taste for vegemite.

The TV series had started filming on 10 July 2011 and the 6th novel "Blood and Circuses" was filmed in Doug Grant Reserve, Altona in Oct 2011. In this novel, unusual things are happening at the Farrell's Circus and Phryne was asked by her friends to investigate. She throws off all her wealth and social status to go undercover as a trick horse-rider, wearing hand-me-down clothes and a new name. Someone seems determined to see the circus fail and Phryne must find out who that might be and why they want it badly enough to resort to poison, assault and murder. Diving into the dangerous underworld of 1920s Melbourne, Phryne proves her courage and ingenuity yet again, aided only by her quick intelligence, an oddly attractive clown and a stout, helpful bear. Click here to view a photo of the Circus Scene.

Metal Skin
Trailer / Review

This is a 1994 Australian film written and directed by Geoffrey Wright, starring Aden Young, Tara Morice, Nadine Garner and Ben Mendelsohn. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on 14 Sep 1994 and was officially released on 4 May 1995 through Village Roadshow.

The film follows the lives of 4 adolescents in and around Altona. Joe, a bogan from Altona, secures employment at a local supermarket where he meets and befriends Dazey, both sharing a common interest in old hot cars. Joe also forms a relationship with a Satanic colleague. The nihilism of these adolescents, coupled with parental disputes, leads to various tragedies (Ref 3).

Eugénie Sandler P.I. (2000)

This is a 13-part Australian children's adventure series that first aired on ABC1 in 2000. Created and written by David McRobbie, the series was shot over 13 weeks in Altona, Footscray and Oakleigh, using disused railway carriages, abandoned warehouses, oppressive concrete walkways and back alleys.

Raised as the daughter of private investigator Ray Sandler, 15-year old Eugenie (played by Xaris Miller) has grown up in Australia without knowing the truth about her past. She has lived a nomadic lifestyle as a result of his father's occupation, joking that she collects postcodes the way other girls collect CDs.

Her mysterious history is rooted in the fictional and mist-shrouded Eastern European country of Versovia whose people soon make their presence felt. Among those pursuing her are furtive-looking detective Matt Gurney, the former governess to the royal family of Versovia, Angela Duvier and cops Davorin and Slavomir. The latter pair are strangers in a strange land and their efforts to accomplish their mission in the alien terrain of urban Australia promises some comic relief.

All Eugenie knows is that she is suddenly and inexplicably in danger. After escaping an explosive device planted in her home, she is forced to flee and sets off to piece together the mystery of her family history and to find her father, with the aid of her intrigued classmate, Warwick.

Winners & Losers (2011)

This TV drama series was first broadcasted on the 7 Network on 22 Mar 2011. It revolves around the lives of 4 women: Jenny Gross (Melissa Bergland), beauty therapist Bec Gilbert (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith), Frances James (Virginia Gay) and Sophie Wong (Melanie Vallejo). The lives of these 4 best friends were bound together by their shared experience of being "the losers" in high school. Ten years later at the school reunion, they realize they are really winners and afterwards, win a large amount of money in the Oz Lotto.

Bec's Beauty Salon is filmed at 19 Harrington Square, Altona - now a vacant shop but was also formerly a beauty salon. I happened to see the filming taking place there on 19 Oct 2011 when I passed by. You are still able to see the shop board "Bec's Beauty Salon" being displayed.

It appears that this series had used Hobsons Bay as filming locations over a rather long period from Sep 2010 to Oct 2011. However, I do not know where are the other filming locations.

BECS Beauty Salon

Blessed (2009)
Trailer / Article

This 2009 drama film, directed by Ana Kokkinos, was released in Australia on 10 Sep 2009. It is based on an award-winning stage play Who's Afraid of the Working Class? Kokkinos engaged the play's original writers, Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius and Christos Tsiolkas,  to adapt it for the big screen.

The story is told in 2 parts: first tracking 7 lost youths over the course of a day and a night as they roam the suburbs and backstreets of Melbourne; then revisiting the same 24 hours from the mothers' perspective.

Four celebrated Australian actors lead a large ensemble cast in a film where multiple narratives intersect tenuously but to powerful effect. Miranda Otto plays a lonely single mother frightened by her responsibilities and addicted to the pokies. Deborra-lee Furness plays a hard-working mother with an unemployed, emotionally dehydrated husband. Victoria Haralabidou plays a Greek widow who sews private school uniforms to make ends meet. Frances O'Connor plays a welfare-dependent mum whose neglected kids have taken to the streets.

A scene was filmed at Altona Pier.

Blessed at Altona Pier

Animal Kingdom (2010)

This is a 2010 Australian crime film written and directed by David Michôd, and starring Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton, Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville. The film is loosely inspired by the Pettingill family and the Walsh Street police shootings that occurred in Melbourne in 1988.

The film received 18 nominations for the 2010 Australian Film Institute Awards, of which it won a record 10 awards. Jacki Weaver was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress for the 68th Golden Globe Awards and the 83rd Academy Awards. It was named one of the Top Independent Films of 2010 at the National Board of Review Awards.

The movie was filmed in many Melbourne locations, including Altona, as Michôd was passionate about wanting to encompass the whole city, from its quiet, leafy suburbs and cityscapes, to its stark, industrial side (Ref 4).

The Wedge (2006-2007)

This Australian sketch show, created by Ian McFadyen and produced by Network Ten, debuted on 30 May 2006 and ran for 2 seasons, ending on 29 Dec 2007.

The Elephant Princess (2008)
Trailer / Article

This Australian children's TV series, created by Jonathan M. Shiff Productions, debuted on Network Ten on 13 Nov 2008. A second season began screening in 2011.

The protagonist Alex Wilson (played by Emily Robins) thinks she is an average suburban girl living in Melbourne, until her 16th birthday. An exotic visitor Kuru shows up in her backyard with a magical elephant Anala and informs her she is in fact the heir to the throne of a magical kingdom, Manjipoor. With his help, the reluctant princess must master her magic powers and defend her royal inheritance against her devious cousin, Vashan whilst balancing the pull of both worlds to find her true destiny. In the second season, Alex and her family have moved to the Gold Coast. Her friend Amanda has followed her there, where they plan to find a new drummer for their band.

Filming of the 26-episode Season 1 took place in Altona North from December 2007 to April 2008. The Yarraville-based Jonathan M. Shiff Productions brought the 50-year old Indian Elephant Siam down from her home state of Queensland twice to Altona North for filming. Click here to view the photo of Siam with its handler, Brenton Bullen.

Lover Boy (1989)

This 1989 film, directed by Geoffrey Wright and starring Noah Taylor and Gillian Jones, was released on 17 Aug 1989. It was filmed in Altona North.


At least two advertisements were shot in Altona (I believe there are many more):

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Filming in Hobsons Bay

Hobsons Bay is a hot destination for film making, with about 50 film permits being issued a year, injecting a considerable amount of money into the council’s coffers as well as the local economy.

Channel 10 series “Rush” location manager Peter Muston said Hobsons Bay’s mix of lavish homes and industrial areas made it a popular choice for Melbourne-based TV shows. “It offers a great variety of looks from sleek, modern houses with fantastic city views across the bay on The Strand, gritty industrial landscapes around Spotswood, Newport and Altona North and bustling urban centres in Newport and Williamstown. Because the area has developed over so many years, it also offers quite specific pockets of residential development periods from the 1950s through to the current McMansion housing estates.” (Ref 1) Hobsons Bay Council planning and environment officer, Peter Hunt said, “A broad array of heritage streetscapes, coastal landscapes and wide parklands all within close proximity of the city has caught the eye of many film makers." (Ref 2)

This post attempts to cover the movies, TV programs and commercials being filmed in Hobsons Bay, based on what I could research from the internet. As such, it will not be a comprehensive coverage. I will cover filming in Altona in a separate post. I have provided video links and links to official websites as well as articles on the filming. You may be able to identify familiar areas and neighbourhoods in these videos. For many of these films, other than knowing that they were filmed in Hobsons Bay, I do not know the specific filming locations and dates. You are welcomed to share via comments if you have such knowledge.

Filming in Williamstown

Williamstown accounts for the bulk of the filming in Hobsons Bay, featuring box-office movies and TV series such as Charlotte's Web, Where the Wild Things Are, Knowing, Mad Max, Rush, Underbelly, City Homicide, Blue Heelers and Stingers. I will elaborate on the specific filming locations after this table.

Title (Video/Story) Genre Network/ Distributor Release Date (Filming Date in HB) Creator/ Director Actors
Golden Girl (v/s) Short Film Happening Films 13/11/2011 (Jan 11) Grant Scicluna Marny Kennedy, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence,
Charlie Bean's Great War (v/s) Documentary Foxtel History Channel 11/10/2010 (Jul 10) Wain Fimeri Nick Farnell, Margot Knight
Matching Jack (v/s) Drama Film 20th Century Fox 19/08/2010 (May-Jun 09) Nadia Tass Jacinda Barrett, James Nesbitt
I Love You Too (v/s) Romantic Comedy Roadshow Films 6/05/2010 (May 09) Daina Reid Brendan Cowell, Peter Dinklage
Where the Wild Things Are (v) Movie Warner Bros 16/10/2009 Spike Jonze Max Records
Gardening Australia (s) Documentary ABC 5/06/2009 (May 09)
Stephen Ryan
Knowing (v) Scifi Movie Summit Entertainment 20/03/2009 Alex Proyas Nicholas Cage
Rush (v) Police Drama 10 2/09/2008 (2008-2011) John Edwards, Christopher Lee Rodger Corser
City Homicide (v/s) Police Drama 7 27/08/2008 (2008-2010) John Hugginson, John Banas Various
Underbelly (v/s) TV Drama 9 13/02/2008 Greg Haddrick, Peter Gawler, Felicity Packard Caroline Craig, Paul Tassone, Daniel Roberts
Newstopia (v/s) Satirical Comedy SBS 10/10/2007 (Nov 2007,
Oct 2008)
Shaun Micallef Shaun Micallef
Wilfred (v) Comedy Series SBS1 19/03/2007 (Jul 09) Tony Rogers Jason Gann, Adam Zwar, Cindy Waddingham
Charlotte's Web (v/s) Movie Paramount Picture,
Warner Bros
7/12/2006 Gary Winick Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey
Irresistible (v) Movie Palace Films 16/04/2006 Ann Turner Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, 
Emily Blunt
My Brother Jack (v/s) TV Mini-Series 10 3/06/2001 Ken Cameron Matt Day, Simon Lyndon
Blonde (v) TV Mini-Series CBS 13/05/2001 Joyce Chopra Poppy Montgomery
Stingers (v/s) Police Drama 9 29/08/1998 Various Peter Phelps, Kate Kendall, Anita Hegh
SeaChange (v/s) Comedy Drama ABC 8/05/1998 (1998-2001) Andrew Knight, Deborah Cox Sigrid Thornton, John Howard, Cassandra Magrath
Blue Heelers (v/s) Police Drama 7 18/01/1994 Tony Morphett, Hal McElroy John Wood, Julie Nihill
Round the Twist (v) Children Comedy 7, ABC,
Aust Network
4/08/1989 Paul Jennings Various
The Henderson Kids II (v) TV Series 10 (1987) Paul Moloney Paul Smith, Nadine Garner, Bradley Kilpatrick
My First Wife (s) Drama Film Roadshow Entertainment 13/09/1984 Paul Cox John Hargreaves, Wendy Hughes, Lucy Angwin
Mad Max (v) Action Film Village Roadshow 12/04/1979 George Miller Mel Gibson
Dance for Doritos (Sadler Reserve) Competition Entry Mark Deere (Jul 10) Mark Deere
APIA 2010 Ad TV Commercial (Jul 10)

Where the Wild Things Are

This is a 2009 box-office American fantasy movie directed by Spike Jonze. It is adapted from Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's classic, about a mischievous boy named Max, who creates his own magical world inhabited by enchanting creatures who crown him as their ruler. After scouring the world for 18 months, Spike Jonze chose 11 Victorian filming locations, including Discovery Bay, Gembrook, Williamstown and Newport. A two storeys high, American style house at 16 Tobruk Crescent, Williamstown, matching the description in the book, was selected to be the home of Max. Two other key conditions were also met. The resident family had to be relocated for 6-8 weeks and the neighbours had agreed to have 100 tonnes of snow dumped in their street for 3 days because the film is set in winter. Scenes where Max runs away from home and crosses the ocean were filmed at Newport Lakes. The film's production generated $57 million for Victoria's economy and created more than 670 local jobs (Ref 3, 4).

Snow in Tobruk Crescent Williamstown

Blue Heelers

This police drama series on Network 7 depicted the lives of police officers in the fictional Victorian town of Mount Thomas. It was Australia's most popular TV drama, drawing more than 2.5 million viewers weekly at its peak and has the most episodes produced of a weekly prime time drama.

To contain production costs, coastal Williamstown with its notable Victorian and Federation architecture was chosen for the location scenes as it is near to the South Melbourne studios of Network 7. The scenes in the police station and pub were filmed inside Stags Head Hotel in Williamstown. The outside scenes of the first Mount Thomas Police Station (10 Thompson St) were filmed at the old, disused Williamstown Police Station, which was then a private residence. Scenes at Mount Thomas High School were filmed at Williamstown High School. Mount Thomas' fictional Commercial Hotel was filmed at the Willy Tavern (55 Nelson Place) in Williamstown. The second Mount Thomas Police Station, adopted during the programme's reform of 2004, as well as the site of Maggie Doyle's iconic death in the railyards, is located at Newport Railway Workshops. The Mount Thomas Hospital is actually Werribee Mercy Hospital and the basalt plains around Werribee were used to represent farming and bush country (Ref 5).

Other Williamstown Filming Locations

  • Williamstown Livesaving Club as the Pearl Bay Courthouse in ABC’s comedy SeaChange, (Ref 6) and in the short film Golden Girl.
  • Williamstown Sailing Club in movie I Love You Too for shooting a senior citizen’s dance (Ref 7).
  • Gem Pier in the TV mini-series My Brother Jack. A World War II minesweeper was redressed as a WW I troop ship for a 1919 homecoming scene. 170 extras, dressed as soldiers and nurses, made up the greeting crowd. There was a brass band, police on horseback and a couple of military advisors to ensure authenticity (Ref 8).
  • Williamstown Botanical Garden in ABC’s documentary Gardening Australia
  • Electra Street in science fiction movie Knowing
  • The Strand in Channel 10’s police drama Rush

Filming in Newport

Besides Where the Wild Things Are, Knowing, City Homicide and Rush which were also filmed in Williamstown, Newport was featured in at least 3 other films: Ghost Rider, Stiff and Romper Stomper. The Newport Workshops were used for filming Ghost Rider and Knowing. Channel 7 filmed the explosion of an ATM at a vacant shop on the corner of Elphin and Hall Street in August 2009 for the third series of its police drama City Homicide (Ref 9).

Title (Video/Story) Genre Network/ Distributor Release Date Creator/ Director Actors
Ghost Rider (s) Superhero Film Columbia Pictures 16/02/2007 Mark Steven Johnson Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes
Stiff (v/s) Telemovie 7 20/06/2004 John Clarke David Wenham
Romper Stomper (v/s) Action Drama Village Roadshow 14/11/1992 Geoffrey Wright Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock

Filming in Spotswood

The Spotswood Pumping Station opened in 1897 as a key component of Melbourne's first centralised sewerage system. It was decommissioned in 1965 after the opening of the new station at nearby Brooklyn. The buildings were left largely vacant for the next 25 years but found a new use as a versatile filming location for numerous productions. These included becoming the Main Force Patrol (MFP) "Halls of Justice" headquarters in the Mad Max film, the Blackmoor Prison in the TV series Prisoner and the Balls Moccasin Factory in the film Spotswood. Soon after, the buildings were handed over to Museum Victoria, to become part of Scienceworks (Ref 10). The Spotswood Pumping Station was also filmed in ICQ and Video Underground in 2001.

Title (Video/Story) Genre Network/ Distributor Release Date Creator/ Director Actors
Spotswood (v/s) Comedy Film Beyond Films 23/01/1992 Mark Joffe Anthony Hopkins, Ben Mendelsohn, Alwyn Kurts
Mad Max (v) Action Film Village Roadshow 12/04/1979 George Miller Mel Gibson
Prisoner (v/s) Soap Opera 10 27/02/1979 Reg Watson Val Lehman
ICQ Short Film 2001 Greg Mclean Samuel Johnson, Kate Denborough, Craig Eagle
Video Underground TV Series Channel 31 2001 Bill Tomaras Walter Bird, Rose Capp, Tosia Hodgins
Charlotte's Web (v/s) Movie Paramount Picture, Warner Bros 7/12/2006 Gary Winick Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey
Harvie Krumpet (v/s) Clay Animation Melodrama Pictures Jun 2003 Adam Elliot Geoffrey Rush, Kamahl, John Flaus

Spotswood is a 1992 Australian comedy film which told the story of the decline of manufacturing in Australia by focusing on the declining fortunes of a footwear factory in the western suburbs of Melbourne. It was released in the US as "The Efficiency Expert". Prisoner (1979-1986) is an Australian TV soap opera set in the Wentworth Detention Centre, a fictional women's prison and was shown on Channel 10. It achieved worldwide cult status after 692 episodes. Mad Max is a 1979 action film which starred the then unknown Mel Gibson. It became a top-grossing Australian film and has been credited for further opening up the global market to Australian New Wave films.

Harvie Krumpet is an Australian clay animation made in Melbourne written, directed and animated by Adam Elliot, which won several awards. The story revolves around the life of Harvek Milos Krumpetzki, born in Poland in 1922. At the outbreak of WWII, he comes to Spotswood in Australia as a refugee, and changes his name to Harvie Krumpet. Despite a life filled with bad luck (such as having Tourette's Syndrome, being struck by lightning and losing a testicle), Harvie remains ever optimistic, living out his own eccentric way of life, marrying a nurse he meets in hospital and raising an adoptive daughter, who is a Thalidomide baby. Throughout his disaster-ridden life, people around him come and go, but Harvie delights in the simple pleasure of life right to the end.

Unknown Filming Locations

The following were filmed in Hobsons Bay but I do not know in what suburbs the filming took place.

Title (Video/Story) Genre Network/ Distributor Release Date (Filming Date in HB) Creator/ Director Actors
The Slap (v) TV Drama ABC1 6/10/2011  (Apr 11) Christos Tsiolkas Various
Woodley (v/s) Comedy Series ABC1 (Jan 11) Frank Woodley Frank Woodley
Small Time Gangster (v) TV Drama Movie Extra 19/04/2011 (Oct-Nov 10)
Steve Le Marquand , Sacha Horler , Gia Carides
Prank Patrol (v) Comedy-Kids ABC3 4/12/2009 (Jul, Aug, Nov 10) Active TV Scotty Twedie and the Ninjas
Tangle (v) TV Drama Showcase Channel 1/10/2009 (Sep 08) Various Various
The Loved Ones (v) Horror Film Madman Entertainment 13/09/2009 (Nov 08) Sean Byrne Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton
Whatever Happened to That Guy (v) Comedy Series Comedy Channel 25/05/2009 (Sep 08) Ted Emery Peter Moon
Dirt Game (v) TV Drama ABC 19/04/2009 (Aug 08) Brendan Maher, Grant Brown Shane Connor, Gerald Lepkowski, Freya Stafford
Triple Zero Heroes (v) Observational Documentary 7 8/02/2009 (Jan 09)

My Father Is a Wonderful Man  Short Film
(May 09) Annabelle Johnson Kristy Barnes-Cullen
Bed of Roses (v) Comedy Series ABC1 10/05/2008 (Jan 2009, Jul 2010) Jutta Goetze, Elizabeth Coleman Kerry Armstrong, Julia Blake
Satisfaction (v) TV Drama Showcase Channel 5/12/2007 (Jul 08) Roger Simpson Kestie Morassi, Madeleine West, Alison Whyte
Can We Help? Lifestyle TV Series ABC1,2 9/06/2006 (Sep 10) Peter Rowsthorn Kate Burridge, Christian Horgan