Blurbs for the New Suburbs

Talk about squandering an opportunity. Given the chance to jazz up the joint, we have instead opted for banality. Seventeen new suburbs will be added to Melbourne’s metropolitan firmament and there’s barely a decent name among them. Sunbury South? Please. Taking an existing suburb and adding ‘south’, ‘west’, ‘north’, ‘upper’, ‘lower’ or any other form of locational qualifier is simply cheating and lacks imagination. We deserve something bold. Something inspiring. Something – dare I say it – that might make someone want to live there.

So what are the new suburbs we’ll all be hearing about in the morning traffic reports in years to come? There’s Quandong, which doesn’t sound so much like a strip of shops and a housing estate as it does a large aquatic mammal. No one’s going to want to live somewhere that sounds like a giant sea cow. I’m pretty sure that if Captain Ahab survived his run-in with Moby Dick, he would have ridden to shore on the back of a Quandong.

But spare a thought for the residents who will live somewhere bereft of the infrastructure most people take for granted. The answer is simple: corporate sponsorship. I can recall an era where sports stadiums had names for life. But traditional nomenclature was thrown overboard long ago and Kardinia Park became ‘Skilled Stadium’, completely wrecking the club’s theme song in the process. Ikon Park sounds like something that should arrive in a flat pack. The artist currently known as ‘Etihad Stadium’ has had so many names that it may be the only sporting arena to ever participate in a witness protection program. But sponsorship means money and, in the case of our new suburbs, infrastructure. That’s why I think ‘Kellogg’s Quandong’ has a lot of merit.

But for every Kellogg’s Quandong, there’s a Plumpton. I’m not sure I’d want to live somewhere called ‘Plumpton’. It sounds like the epicentre of an obesity crisis. That said, it rhymes with ‘Compton’ and I look forward to the first generation of rappers emerging from this fledgling suburb to proclaim, with their hats on backwards and – doubtless – their elasticized waists, that they are ‘Straight Outta Plumpton’. Ideally, Compton would become Plumpton’s sister city, to fully realize the potential for cultural cross-pollination.

One of the new suburbs will be called ‘Beveridge Central’. Although it doesn’t even exist yet, I feel I’ve already been there. When I was at Uni, I lived in a large share house in St Kilda. The upstairs living room had its own bar and fridge that was forever stocked with beer. That, to me, was Beveridge Central. In fact, I recall some of our friends describing it as exactly that. Spare a thought, though, for residents of ‘Beveridge North West’, who have squandered the chance to call themselves ‘Beveridge North by North West’ in homage to Alfred Hitchcock and lay claim to being Melbourne’s premier outer suburban destination for film buffs who are easily misled. Trust me, it’s a growing market.

Then there’s Tarneit Plains. Where do I begin? One the one hand, it sounds unfeasibly modest. No suburb should have the term ‘plain’ as part of its name. Those who live there might end up having a complex. If suburbs have to have a double-barreled title, they should have words like ‘Awesome’, ‘Wonderful’ or ‘Splendiforous’ as the all-important second limb. I would be prepared to move somewhere call ‘Tarneit Amazeballs’, but not ‘Tarneit Plains’.

The other problem with ‘Tarneit Plains’ is that they’re describing what used to be there. Yes, once upon a time there were large plains of grasslands and rolling meadows. Then we decided to build about a thousand houses on top of them. It’s like those places that have words like ‘Meadows’ or ‘Springs’ as part of their name – they’re describing something they just poured a concrete slab on top of.

There are, of course, exceptions. Frankly, the fact that we’ll soon have a suburb called ‘Northern Quarries’ fills my heart with absolute joy. Doubtless, local sporting teams will call themselves things like ‘The Quarrymen’, ‘The Diggers’ and ‘The Earth Movers’. The promotional campaign in support of new estates will be entitled to say, ‘Northern Quarries Rocks!’ without a hint of shame. By linking the name of a suburb to the local industry you end up with a kind vertically integrated form of cross promotion. Everyone wins. Quandong should take careful note.

We need to be innovative. Agile. Creative. New suburb names should have pizzazz and not be the product of a fifteen-minute meeting before lunch (yes, I’m talking to you, ‘Pakenham East’). They should (if possible) go viral. In fact, they should go so viral that they need to be separated from others for fear of infection. Suburbs with names like ‘Funky Town’, ‘Noddyland’ and ‘New York South’ would get tongues wagging and build the kind of on-line buzz I know that we all secretly crave. It’s the least we deserve. Home sweet home.