It’s great to see the back of Australia’s second wave of COVID-19. As we are all aware, Victoria led the country in coronavirus cases and we share the heartbreak of those affected both directly and indirectly by the pandemic. From a more positive perspective, however, our competitive southern state isn’t a stranger to outdoing the rest of us in more ways than just the pandemic.
Some might say Victoria’s competitive spirit began well before they were a state. In the 50 years between becoming a colony separate from NSW and federation, Victoria’s recorded population swelled by more than 12-fold. The main event attributed to this was the gold rush, which attracted intrepid migrants from all over the world and served as the backdrop to the infamous Eureka Stockade.
Two years after the establishment of the colony of Victoria, the Melbourne Cricket Club established themselves on a parcel of land now known as the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It is now the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere and 11th largest globally. It was the centrepiece for Australia’s first Olympic Games in 1956, as well as the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Around the same time the MCG came into existence, Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar began playing an experimental game of football at nearby Richmond Paddock during the cricket off season. The Cordner-Eggleston Cup, as it came to be known, is believed to be the origin of Aussie Rules Football, as well as the world’s oldest continuing competition across all football codes (including soccer and rugby).
Fast forward to 2020 and Victoria’s reputation as a cultural paragon is well established. Consistently ranked at or near the top of the world’s most liveable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Melbourne attracts people from around the country and the world. Melbourne’s rate of population growth suggests it will overtake Sydney as Australia’s most populous city in about a decade.
Despite representing just 3 percent of Australia’s landmass, Victoria contains a quarter of Australia’s population, almost 30 percent of the country’s cafes and restaurants, as well as almost 30 percent of the country’s takeaway food services. Although New South Wales has the highest number of higher education institutions, Victoria’s number is growing at a higher rate. Between 2018 and 2019, growth in the number of businesses was also a higher rate in Victoria than any of the other states (surpassed only by ACT—a territory).
Victoria’s superior business growth can also be seen in economic performance. Since the 1990s, Victoria’s Gross State Product (GSP) has been steadily catching up to New South Wales, Australia’s financial centre. The annual growth rate of Victorian GSP has been a whole percentage point higher than Australia’s GDP growth. If this trend continues in our post-COVID economy, Victoria’s economy will represent an increasing proportion of Australia’s economy.
As Victoria’s economy has grown, so too has house prices. Nevertheless, Melbourne house prices are not as unaffordable as they are in Sydney, and the median unit price difference between the two cities is even greater. Sydney’s median house price peaked about $1 million in 2017 and endured a major correction for the following two years. Melbourne, on the other hand, was impacted nowhere near as badly. In fact, many Melbourne homes continued to grow in value over that period of time.
Victoria may have outdone the rest of us when it comes to coronavirus cases and lockdowns, but they’ve also outdone the rest of the country in many other areas. A vibrant hub of population and economic expansion, Victoria will continue to be the place to watch over the coming decades.