Linguistic diversity in Melbourne's south-east.

Author:Clyne, Michael

The south-eastern suburbs of Monash, Greater Dandenong and Casey have become Melbourne's most linguistically diverse area. This article describes the language demography of the three local government areas, with some comparisons with other parts of Melbourne, taking into account age profiles. The value of such linguistic diversity and the challenges it presents in terms of service provision and other language policy issues are also discussed.


The local government areas of Monash, Greater Dandenong and Casey, in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, now form the most linguistically and culturally diverse contiguous area in the statistical division (SD) of Melbourne and also in the state of Victoria. Data on the use of community languages (that is, non-indigenous languages other than English) show that these areas have become more diverse than the now gentrified inner suburbs, where the number of community languages has decreased. These south-eastern suburbs are also more diverse than the western suburbs which, though still multilingual, are not attracting the same range of new migrants.

This article describes the linguistic profile of these south-eastern suburbs, and notes some implications of their diversity. In this article we will conceptualise linguistic diversity in three ways:

* the number of languages other than English (LOTEs) spoken at home by over 1,000 speakers in each municipality, as recorded in the 2006 census

* the percentage of residents speaking a LOTE at home, and

* the range of languages in terms of regional and historical origins.


The three local government areas (LGAs) in the south east are of quite different sizes. In 2006, Casey was Victoria's largest municipality with 212,793 residents, Monash was the state's fourth largest LGA with 160,026 and Greater Dandenong ranked fourteenth with 125,060 residents. Thus the high raw numbers of LOTE speakers in Casey (discussed below) are partly an artefact of the large size of this LGA, and need to be interpreted in this light. Conversely, the smaller size of Greater Dandenong makes the high levels of linguistic diversity in this LGA even more notable.

In 2006, Casey reported 20 LOTEs with more than 1,000 speakers, making it the most multilingual LGA in the Melbourne SD, followed by Greater Dandenong (16), both exceeding Brimbank (15), which is the most multilingual area in Melbourne's north-west. Monash, with 12 LOTEs with over 1,000 speakers has overtaken Hume (11), the second most linguistically diverse LGA in the north-west. Casey, which is in the Cranbourne-Pakenham corridor on Melbourne's south-eastern outskirts, has been exceptional in that it has added five new languages with over 1,000 speakers in the past five years, and twelve since 1996.

Of the 40 most widely spoken languages in Victoria, seven have more speakers living in Casey than in any other municipality in Victoria, and four each have their highest numbers of speakers in Greater Dandenong and Monash. Table 1 lists these languages and shows the total number of speakers in each case.

Table 1: Languages with more speakers in the three south-eastern LGAs than elsewhere in the Melbourne SD LGA Language No. of speakers Casey Sinhala 3,247 Hindi 1,844 French 1,713 Dari 1,585 Romanian 1,446 Samoan 1,144 Hungarian 1,102 Greater Dandenong Khmer 5,132 Serbian 2,846 Albanian 1,602 Bosnian 1,463 Monash Greek 11,040 Mandarin 9,882 Tamil 1,889 Korean 1,083 In addition to these spoken languages, Auslan (Australian sign language) is used by more people in Casey (127 users) than in any other municipality in the state, while Monash ranks third in Melbourne for the size of its Auslan population (87) and Greater Dandenong is ranked eleventh, with 53 users. Although small, these populations have seen remarkably steep increases since the 2001 census (when the total number of Auslan speakers across all three municipalities was less than 50) and together now account for just under 20 per cent of the Auslan using population in Melbourne. (1) The south-eastern suburbs are thus becoming an increasingly important centre of Melbourne's deaf community.


Two of the three southeastern LGAs have above average proportions of people speaking a LOTE at home. This is particularly striking in Greater Dandenong which, with 55.2 per cent speaking a LOTE at home, has the highest percentage in Victoria. Monash is also above average, with 38.3 per cent of residents speaking a LOTE at home. By contrast, the percentage of LOTE speakers in Casey, at 23.9 per cent, is below the Melbourne average of 27.9 per cent. However, as we showed above, Casey is the largest LGA in Melbourne, and its raw numbers of LOTE speakers are consequently high. While a number of municipalities in the north and west of the city have above average proportions of LOTE speakers--Brim-bank (53.8 per cent), Whittlesea (43.1 per cent), Maribyrnong (43.0 per cent), Moreland...

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