Accessibility | Skip to primary navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer |

What's on City of Melbourne

Melbourne's multicultural history

Melbourne's population is made up of people from all over the world. Around 140 cultures are represented, from Victoria's original Indigenous inhabitants to more recent migrants from Asia and Africa. Our community includes people from Somalia, South Korea, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, Italy, India, Greece, Japan and more.

Some of these nationalities are recent arrivals. Some came early in Melbourne's history and contributed significantly to the city's growing identity.


People flocked to Victoria in the 1850s after gold was discovered, including thousands of Chinese migrants.

Their impact is evident throughout Melbourne, but can be particularly seen in the streets and alleys around Little Bourke Street. Melbourne's Chinatown, Australia’s oldest, began around 1854-55 as a cluster of shops and boarding houses in Celestial Avenue. Today the precinct is a bustling, colourful area packed with shops and restaurants.

Several shops still stock goods similar to that of the earliest stores. The Num Pon Soon building, built in 1861, has always been a meeting place and worship hall. The narrow, three-storey building in Heffernan Lane has been a restaurant since it was built in the 1860s.

See also:

Back to top


Between the 1920s and 1950s, Carlton was the main destination for immigrant Italians. Today the suburb's proportion of Italian residents is about four per cent, compared with 30 per cent in its heyday.

However, Lygon Street remains a joyous celebration of everything Italian. This popular strip is lined with double-storey Victorian terraces that house dozens of Italian shops, cafes and restaurants. This is the street that introduced an espresso machine to Melbourne in the 1950s, launching the city's famous love affair with coffee.

Another fragment of the local Italian story is found at the public pool in neighbouring Fitzroy where AQUA PROFUNDA is emblazoned in metre-high black letters at the deep end.

Every October, the Lygon Street Festa celebrates the city's Italian heritage. The Festa famously features the Italian waiters’ race and a spaghetti-eating contest.

See also:

Back to top


Melbourne is said to have the largest Greek-speaking population outside of Europe, after Athens and Thessaloniki, Melbourne’s Greek sister city. Greek migration to Australia dates back to 1827 but the vast majority of Greeks arrived between 1945 and 1982.

The city’s Greek Precinct (in and around Lonsdale Street between Swanston and Russell streets) had its beginnings in the 1930s and today is home to Greek restaurants, cafes and cake shops as well as travel agents and music stores. The area is also the focal point of the Festival of the Antipodes which is held every March.

See also:

Back to top


At the fall of Saigon in 1975, there were only 1000 Vietnamese people living in Australia. Today, the Vietnamese surname, Nguyen, is the second-most listed after Smith in the Melbourne phonebook.

Melbourne’s Vietnamese migrants initially congregated around Victoria Street in Abbotsford. This once rundown, inner-city working-class shopping strip has been transformed into the bustling and vibrant heart of the Vietnamese community. Some of the city’s cheapest and best food is found here and Melburnians flock day and night for enormous bowls of pho (soup), rice paper rolls and noodle dishes.

Back to top