Moonee Valley continues to thrive as little Europe on the Melbourne map, however things are changing for the once densely Italian and Greek community.
Moonee Valley Councillor Samantha Byrne who represents the Leisure and Active Communities portfolio says these communities have had a big and good influence on the area.
“Historically its always been known as a high majority of Italian and Greek families which obviously have great family bonds, often in the household they would be single dwellings with big families in them.
“We’ve got a really strong IKA club (Italian Community of Keilor Association) on Keilor Park Drive and that’s where a large group of the Italian community has programs on a daily basis.”
However, 2016 Census Data for the region shows the decline in Italian and Greek families over the past 16 years by -3,036 and -441 people respectively (according to ‘language spoken at home’ data).
“I suppose that generation of people are starting to move on in life, they’re passing away or moving into nursing homes and their houses are being knocked down for redevelopment opportunities for other people to move into,” Byrne says.
Local resident John Indrizzi, 73, was one of the 8,277 Moonee Valley residents who migrated during the ‘60s. He says he first moved into East Keilor in 1970.
“I bought the land in ’67 and built my house. The land was cheap, $3000.”
Recently, John downsized and his old home has already been demolished and construction has begun.
Councillor Byrne describes the patterns of these migrants’ families as another reason for the decline.
“There are a lot of kids that grew up in the ‘80s that were born and bred in Essendon and weren’t able to afford to buy houses in Essendon when they moved out. So, they’ve then moved from Essendon to East Keilor. Now they’re buying newer houses out in Craigieburn,” she says.
John Indrizzi says he has witnessed big changes in his time living in Moonee Valley.
“Now it is very multicultural, there’s been new roads, buildings, freeways, lots of variety of shops and restaurants, buses, the only airport was Essendon.”
Owner of Milleara International Foods and Deli Bill Roubos has been retailing in the area for 10 years.
He says he too has noticed a shift in community behaviours and values.
“We’ve always had a strong Greek and Italian demographic. We are seeing more and more Asian families in the shop who have adopted a western diet. Ten years ago we never used to see them in the deli.
“People are more health conscious. Everyone looks at nutritional panels. We have to cater for intolerances and be more conservative. Years ago people would come in for pasta, now we have to stock gluten-free, spelt, mais…”
The 2016 Census data recognises the continuous growth in Mandarin and Vietnamese families with +1,963 and +1,216 people respectively moving into the area since 2001.
“One of the priests at St Martin De Porres in Avondale Heights is Vietnamese and I believe they congregate around there a bit more,” Councillor Byrne says.
She also noted that the Moonee Valley area has some of the highest percentages of Catholicism in Victoria.
“That’s represented in terms of the schools we have, St Bernard’s, St Columbas, Ave Maria.
“St Bernard’s for example is zoned and is very hard to get into and people move into the area to get their kids into the various catholic schools now.”
Byrne believes this is one of the reasons behind the growth of Mandarin and Vietnamese families and says the community welcomes everyone with open arms.
“In March every year we have what we call a Mediterranean Fiesta which started off with the Italian and Greek and I suppose the Mediterranean people coming together and showcasing their culture which was really exciting and now that’s open to everyone,” Byrne says.
“It’s a day that’s put on at our local hub in the Centreway. It’s a beautiful day and there are lots of different cuisines to eat and try and dancers and performances.”
It is not all doom and gloom for the Italian and Greek community as there is now a larger percentage of people with Italian ancestry (16.7%) and growth of 547 people with Greek heritage since 2001.
So, whilst many of Moonee Valley’s older population are moving on in life, descendants of their family are remaining in the area and starting families of their own.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing, 2016 (Usual residence data)
Feature Image Source: Moonee Valley Council Facebook Page