Level Crossings: A good example of what makes Melbourne great.

Melbourne Day is August 30 and most people are looking forward to it with ambivalence – perhaps because there is no holiday attached.

But given we have again been recognised as the World’s Most Liveable city; we should look at some of the things that make Melbourne great.

Back when I was CEO of the Committee for Melbourne I was often asked why the Committee for Melbourne had a greater impact than the Committee for Sydney. A prominent Sydneysider strangely provided the answer.

She said ‘In Sydney people come to meetings asking ‘what can I get out of this’, whereas people in Melbourne come to meetings asking ‘how can I contribute’.’

A very good example is the way Melbourne’s multibillion-dollar level crossing program finally came into being.

Success has many parents and failure is an orphan. Many people can claim contributions in lobbying and input to make level crossing clearances come to pass – chief amongst them is the RACV who fought for years to keep the issue on the table. But so can Committee for Melbourne.

Back in 2011 The Committee for Melbourne brought together many of its members including RACV, Channel Seven, The Herald Sun and various engineering, financing and planning members to create a media strategy to give the issue a renewed push.

Kicking-off with pieces on Chanel Seven and articles in the Herald Sun a renewed effort was made to raise the issue in the public profile calling level-crossings a ‘city-wide, system-wide mobility crisis point. A meeting was held with the then Premier Ted Baillieu who rejected the priority for level crossing separation.

In response members of Committee for Melbourne, including government departments RACV, engineers and planners built on all their previous existing work to create an options paper called ‘Moving Melbourne’. This paper was openly given to both political parties, with the Labor Party taking this to the election as a key plank.

The Labor Party won and the program is now being implemented for the greater good of Melbourne.

The Committee for Melbourne cannot and does not claim sole ownership of this program, nor even major ownership. But it was a key organisation amongst many that had been pushing for many years to have the problem solved.

And this is a great thing about Melbourne. Many voices work together. Many people collaborate. No-one other than government is claiming principal responsibility for the success. All players recognise the collective effort. There is a collective spirit in Melbourne that exists in few other places in the world and this is a great thing about Melbourne.

This collective spirit is seen in many parts of our city. At the MCG our crowds are robust and passionate, but respectful. Teenage kids can come to a game without adult supervision and if someone were to be in trouble supporters regardless of team loyalty would support someone in need.

On our public transport people do stick up for people who are being bullied or chastised – especially if the bully is a ticket inspector!

In our character we have most of Australia’s philanthropy. We are home to most national non-government organisations.

Melbourne is not perfect but it is very, very good. It is a city that does things. It is a handsome city that functions well with good people of great character. And it achieves this because we are a city that comes together to contribute to things, not take things.

While Melbourne Day is not high on everyone’s agenda, and while we may both be proud of and yet disbelieve our title of World’s best, lets take some time this week to pause and think about what makes our city great and let’s keep working to keep it so.

Andrew MacLeod is a former CEO of Committee for Melbourne and a former UN humanitarian official. He is a Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellow at Deakin University and a corporate director.


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