Southbankers unite to strengthen community ties

Southbank residents have shared their vision for a more connected community during an extensive consultation process led by neighbourhood partner Ash Lee.

‘Southbank is a very interesting suburb with three distinct and high-density residential, commercial and arts areas,’ Ash said.

‘Local people have a strong desire to connect with each other. There are resident groups that really care about the community and are doing amazing work.

‘Southbank Residents Association has 20 years of history advocating for the community. They played a critical role in establishing Boyd Community Hub. Southbank3006 is a new resident group that is connecting people online and through their monthly events.

‘There are all sorts of activities taking place in the rooms at Boyd, like Toastmasters, filmmaking workshops and language classes. Southbank also has two very active Meetup groups offering plenty of social events.

‘COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works, but people in Southbank are so ready to connect with each other once more.’

Ash studied Anthropology and Development Studies with a focus on participatory community development.

After moving to Melbourne from South Korea, Ash worked with non-profits, neighbourhood houses and a volunteer resource centre before landing a role with the City of Melbourne.

‘Coming from the community sector, I understand grassroots movements and now – working on the other side – I am learning to support neighbourhoods with the tools and resources of a local government,’ Ash said.

‘I like the autonomy of the job. I feel very empowered, and like I can really deliver something.’

About our neighbourhood model

We’re working to better understand and respond to community needs in a highly localised way through a new neighbourhood model.

Led by passionate neighbourhood partners, the model aims to ‘connect the dots’ between the City of Melbourne, residents and businesses, to empower local people, build community capacity and guide city projects.

To find out more and have your say on what matters to you in your local area, visit Participate Melbourne.

Ash said an important part of her role as a neighbourhood partner is to tackle disconnection between community and local government.

‘Having a neighbourhood partner who’s dedicated to building a relationship with the local community helps the City of Melbourne understand the current issues and concerns of the community. It’s also important for the community,’ Ash said.

‘There are great ideas in all communities, but when they aren’t connected with the right resources, enthusiasm can dissipate. That’s where I come in, to make those connections.’

Community consultation has revealed that the Southbank community is particularly interested in improving traffic flow, pedestrian safety and community space.

These priorities will be at the forefront of the new Southbank neighbourhood plan.

‘People in Southbank want it to be considered as a residential area, not just somewhere to pass through,’ Ash said.

‘You might think of Southbank as a concrete jungle, but if you explore the area you will be surprised.

‘People I meet love living in Southbank. I look forward to helping them make the neighbourhood even better and build a more connected community, with lots of community-led events.’

Ash feels at home working in the vibrant suburb of Southbank with its strongly multicultural community.

‘As a migrant living in Australia, whose first language is Korean, I always have this question about my agency – I am an outsider. And some might question how an outsider can work in community development,’ Ash said.

‘But working in Southbank is empowering because most of community is international. As is the case with many urban communities, very few people were born and raised here.

‘There are many migrants who want to build community, even if we are only here for a short time. We are all outsiders who want to come together and create something. This is the very nature of community development.’

Ash is looking forward to the work ahead to make Southbank stronger than ever.

‘Community doesn’t happen naturally. It actually takes a lot of organising to create a community. Community development is a dynamic process and it’s easier to see when the area is full of new arrivals,’ Ash said.

‘When you are in the minority you might not feel entitled to propose an idea for the community. You might feel like you should just be grateful to be here. But that’s not the case.

‘I’ve met so many people from different countries in Southbank. We are in an active process of defining ourselves as Southbankers, and we’re in it together.’

Visit Meet Your Neighbourhood Partners to hear from partners for other local suburbs.

A group of people smiling on a city street

Neighbourhood partners outside Melbourne Town Hall