Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria, Australia’s second-largest city with a population of 3.6million. In the battle between Melbourne and Sydney for supremacy as the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne wins hands down, becoming the second UNESCO City of Literature in 2008.
Melbourne’s readers are voracious. More people borrow more books from local libraries in Melbourne than anywhere else in Australia. Reading groups are also extremely popular; the Ivanhoe Reading Circle, which is Australia’s oldest book group, and has met continuously since the 1920s.
Melbourne has the biggest publishing sector in Australia.
Melbourne is a city of writers, home to 19th-century novelists Rolf Boldrewood (Thomas Browne) and Marcus Clarke, and early poet C.J Dennis. Booker prize-winning author Peter Carey was born in Melbourne; poet, essayist and novelist Chris Wallace-Crabbe and poet Dorothy Porter have been widely translated; and today Melbourne has a vibrant community of writers, novelists, playwrights and poets.
Steven Carroll, author of The Time We Have Taken, the winner of the 2008 Miles Franklin Literary Award, said the designation confirmed that Melbourne was the cultural centre of Australia:
“Melbourne has over the last century inspired some of the greatest works of Australian literature. There is just something about the place – just think books by the likes of Hal Porter, George Johnston, Miles Franklin and Helen Garner.”
Melbourne is home to a range of cracking literary festivals: Melbourne Writers’ Festival, the Overload Poetry Festival, the Alfred Deakin Innovation Lectures and the Emerging Writers’ Festival.
Melbourne is home to one of Australia’s most valuable literary awards, the Melbourne Prize for Literature.
The city is stuffed with book shops; per head, Melbourne boasts more bookshops than any other Australian city.
Victoria’s oldest publicly funded cultural institution and the oldest free public library in Australia, the Victoria State Library houses some 3.5 million items and is visited by around 1.1 million people each year.
The Centre for Youth Literature promotes reading for pleasure for all young people and champions youth literature. It produces events for young readers, professional development programs, and provides resources for educators.
The Wheeler Centre
As part of its bid to be a City of Literature, the Victorian Government created The Wheeler Centre, named for the Melbourne-based founders of the Lonely Planet guides. It’s a hub for writing and literature-based activities.
It also houses these organisations: Australian Poetry, Writers Victoria, Express Media (for young writers), independent publishers collective SPUNC, and the Melbourne chapter of PEN.