City of Darebin

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City of Darebin
Map of Melbourne showing City of Darebin
Population161,609 (2018)[1] (48th)
 • Density2,993/km2 (7,750/sq mi)
Area54 km2 (20.8 sq mi)[1]
MayorSusan Rennie
Council seatPreston
State electorate(s)
Federal Division(s)Cooper
WebsiteCity of Darebin
LGAs around City of Darebin:
Hume Whittlesea Banyule
Moreland City of Darebin Banyule
Yarra Yarra Boroondara

The City of Darebin is a local government area in Victoria, Australia, in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. It has an area of 54 square kilometres (20.8 sq mi) and in June 2018 Darebin had a population of 161,609.[1] Municipal offices are located at 350 High Street, Preston.

Darebin was rated 386th of 590 Australian Local Government Areas in the BankWest Quality of Life Index 2008.[2]


The City of Darebin was formed in 1994 with the merger of most of the former Cities of Northcote and Preston, with the transfer of the portion of the City of Northcote of Heidelberg Road to the City of Yarra and minor adjustments with the former Cities of Coburg, Heidelberg and the Shire of Diamond Valley.


Economy of Darebin[edit]

The 2012 Business Register states that Darebin currently has 11,575 businesses operating within the region. These businesses create 55,278 jobs for locals and residents of Melbourne, and the Darebin area itself has 74,291 employed residents. Darebin had a Gross Regional Product of A$5.23 billion in 2012, a 0.3% increase on the previous year. Since 2001, approximately A$1 billion of extra GRP has been created in the region.[3] The biggest exports in Darebin are:

  • Manufacturing ($1,072 million)
  • Education & training ($313 million)
  • Wholesale trade ($243 million)

Since 2006, gentrification in the Darebin area has seen average incomes and property values increase significantly in the region, particularly in the suburbs of Northcote, Fairfield, Alphington and Thornbury. As a result, there has been a dramatic change in the economy of Darebin and the types of businesses that operate. For example, since 2006, there has been increases in the total exports of the following industry sectors:[3]

  • Accommodation & food services – 49% increase ($39 million to $88.8 million)
  • Wholesale trade – 39.4% increase ($203 million to $243 million)

Darebin also experienced growth thanks to the mining boom, with a 57% increase in mining-relating exports from 2006 to 2012, despite there being no mines in the municipality.

Of the 11,575 registered businesses in Darebin, the most common industry sectors are:

  • Construction – 1,992 registered businesses (17.2%)
  • Professional, scientific & technical services – 1,442 registered businesses (12.3%)
  • Rental, hiring & real estate services – 1,167 registered businesses (10.1%)
  • Transport, postal & warehousing – 1,031 registered businesses (8.9%)

Demographics of Darebin[edit]

As of 2012, Darebin has 144,086 residents living in its boundaries which include 5,344 hectares or 53 km². This gives the area of Darebin a population density of 26.96 persons per hectare. Darebin residents have a median age of 36 and earn on average $1,178 per week. According to the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics census, in Darebin:[4]

  • 28% of households are couples with children. (4% lower than Victorian average)
  • 34% live in Medium/High density housing (11% higher than Victorian average)
  • 34% of residents rent their property (8% higher than Victorian average)
  • 28% have a bachelor's degree or Higher (7% higher than Victorian average)
  • 21% travel on Public Transport to work (10% higher than Victorian average)
  • 29% from Non-English speaking backgrounds (9% higher than Victorian average)

The most common occupations in Darebin are:

  • Professionals (28.7%)
  • Clerical & Administrative Workers (14.7%)
  • Technicians & Trade Workers (12.0%)

With gentrification, more educated and affluent residents are moving to the Darebin area, particularly in the suburbs of Northcote and Fairfield. This has seen a marked change in the occupations of residents in Darebin since 2006. There has been a decline in the number of residents employed in manual labour sectors and an increase in the number of residents employed in managerial, professional and community service sectors. This is also related to the number of residents living in Darebin with tertiary education, with a 6% increase in residents with degrees in the last 7 years.[5] Furthermore, the largest increase in residents in Darebin came from those earning in the top 25%, with a 3.4% increase in these households since 2006.

Darebin has a diverse multicultural population, with 33.7% of residents being born overseas. The most common countries of birth are:[6]

  • Italy (5.3%)
  • Greece (3.7%)
  • India (3.3%)
  • China (3.2%)

26% of Darebin residents also arrived in Australia within the last 5 years.

Darebin as a region is home to many environmentalists, and this, along with Darebin's proximity to the Melbourne CBD, is reflected in the transportation methods used by Darebin residents compared to Melbourne as a whole. Most residents still drive to work, with 50.1% of residents driving alone to work, however this is 10% lower than the Greater Melbourne average. Furthermore, 14.2% of Darebin residents travel to work by bus, compared to 11.9% in the rest of Melbourne. Darebin residents also walk to work, cycle to work or catch other modes of public transport more often than the rest of Melbourne. Since 2006, the largest single increase in transportation use has been in train travel, with 2,423 more residents catching the train, compared to 2,416 new vehicle drivers. This is the largest increase in Victoria.[7]


Until the 2016 elections, Darebin Council elections were dominated by the Labor Party (ALP). At the first City of Darebin election in 1996 and at subsequent elections in 1998, 2002 and 2004 only ALP member candidates were successful. The ALP endorsed candidates for the very first Darebin Council elections, but in subsequent elections the local party organisation supported particular candidates in each contested ward. The decision of the party not to endorse candidates almost certainly arises from the performance of the very first elected council, in which a deal between ALP factions determined the preselection of the party's council candidates.[8]

Dissatisfaction with the performance of the first Darebin Council led to the Kennett Government holding an Inquiry under David Elsum, which reported to the Victorian Parliament in April 1997.[9] The Elsum Report found that factional differences led to poor governance on the Council. As a result, the Kennett Government sacked the Council and appointed a commissioner, but decided to return to an elected council about eighteen months later in 1998.

The council consisted of nine single-Councillor wards at each of the four elections totally dominated by the ALP. In 2008, following a representation review by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC), Darebin was divided into three wards comprising three councillors in each elected by proportional representation. For the first time the ALP stranglehold was broken with the election of Trent McCarthy, a Greens candidate, to the Rucker Ward. In 2012, the ALP stranglehold was further weakened with the election of independents Julie Williams and Bo Li elected to the Cazaly Ward, along with Oliver Walsh, a Liberal Party member, elected to the Rucker Ward. Later in that term, Vince Fontana of Cazaly Ward and Gaetano Greco of La Trobe Ward quit the ALP, leaving only three ALP members, Tim Laurence, Steven Tsitas and Angela Villella, on the Council.

The first election in 1996 was by attendance voting. Postal voting has been used at each subsequent election.

ALP factions provided much of the interest in Darebin politics, given that the ALP has traditionally been in a commanding position within the municipality. Two councillors elected from the Right or Labor Unity faction, Nazih Elasmar and Marlene Kairouz, were subsequently elected to the Victorian Parliament. Both Elasmar and Kairouz have at various times served as Mayor of Darebin, Kairouz having held the office of Mayor on two occasions.

At the first Darebin Council Election no faction held control, with four councillors from the Preston area being members of the Labor Unity (Right) faction, four councillors from the Northcote area being members of the Socialist Left, and one Councillor from the Preston area being a member of the Pledge faction, a breakaway group from the Socialist Left frequently voting with the Right.[10] After elections in 1998, 2002 and 2004 the Labor Unity group held almost all Council positions, but complications existed within Labor Unity as two sub-factions competed for dominance and for the election of Mayor. In 2008, with the introduction of the proportional representation voting system, no faction again held dominance.

Council administration[edit]

The City of Darebin has been served by six Chief Executive Officers (CEO) :

  • Kelvin Spiller (1994 to 1998) was the CEO of the former City of Preston, and stayed on at amalgamation to become the first CEO of the City of Darebin. He left the City of Darebin to take up the role of CEO at the Shire of Maroochy in Queensland. His involvement in the events leading up to the Council dismissal made his position untenable upon the return of democratically elected Councillors, and he departed the City of Darebin on 28 August 1998, 15 days before the 1998 Council Election.
  • David Graham (1998–1999) was seconded to the City of Darebin from the City of Port Phillip to lead the organisation and during the tumultuous period following the Council's 1997 dismissal. His major priority was to undertake the recruitment of a permanent CEO . Mr Graham made it clear to staff he was at Darebin for a temporary assignment and would not be a candidate for the permanent role. Upon the recruitment of Philip Shanahan, Mr Graham returned to the City of Port Phillip.
  • Philip Shanahan (1999–2005; 2017) was Darebin's longest serving CEO, and Victoria's most experienced local government Chief Executive. Mr Shanahan came to Darebin after serving as the CEO at the City of Maribyrnong since amalgamation in 1994. Mr Shanahan retired from full-time work in 2005.
  • Michael Ulbrick (2005–2010) came to Darebin from the Victorian Workcover Authority, but was already known to Darebin staff, having served a period on Philip Shanahan's Executive Management Team from 1999 to 2003. In 2002, Mr Ulbrick served a six-month period as temporary CEO at the Surf Coast Shire following the departure of their CEO .
  • Rasiah Dev (2010–2016) arrived from the City of Moonee Valley in May 2010. He also already known to the Darebin community as he had served under CEO Shanahan. In that period Dev championed the introduction of the developer contribution levy. After a stint as CEO at Moonee Valley Dev returned to Darebin to take up the same role in May 2010. He took leave in September 2012 for health reasons and replaced by temporary CEO, Daniel Freer. Dev resumed his duties in December 2012 but resigned suddenly in November 2016, shortly after the 2016 local government elections.[11]
  • Former CEO Philip Shanahan returned to Darebin as Interim CEO for eight months while a new CEO was sought by the new council.
  • Sue Wilkinson (2017–present) was formerly CEO of Colac Shire Council, well-respected for her work particularly during the 2015 bushfires in the area. She is Darebin's first female CEO.

During the 2012-2016 Council term, Darebin Council was investigated by the Victorian Ombudsman due to allegations of corruption resulting in numerous resignations. Amidst these allegations, the CEO's salary was raised to approximately $A400,000 without seeking public approval.[12] The council has been criticised for its lack of consultation with local residents, high density developments and apparent inconsistent decisions.[13][14][15]

Current councillors[edit]

Ward Party Councillor Notes
Cazaly   Greens Steph Amir
  Independent Lina Messina
  Labor Julie Williams
Rucker   Independent Kim Le Cerf
  Greens Trent McCarthy
  Independent Susan Rennie
Latrobe   Independent Gaetano Greco
  Labor Tim Laurence
  Greens Susanne Newton

Arts and entertainment[edit]

Darebin City has an active artist community which is contemporary, experimental and culturally diverse. Writers, musicians and visual artists flock to the locality for performance, collaboration and acceptance. Notable contributors to the Darebin arts community are locals, Rose Turtle Ertler, Sundown and/or Last Stand, The Contrast, The Melbourne Ukulele Kollective, DIY artshows and housegigs collective, Loveanarchistpress Publishing, Performing Older Women's Circus (POW Circus) and TRAX Arts.

Darebin celebrates the artistry and diversity of the community with regular festivals and events such as the Darebin Music Feast and the High Vibes festival. The city also funds community music, such as the Preston Symphony Orchestra and public artwork, such as the Fairfield Industrial Dog Object.[16]

The Preston Markets are a central feature of Darebin and attract people from all around the area.

City of Darebin automated waste collection truck (2009)


Renaming Batman Park as Gumbri Park[edit]

As part of a wider campaign to remove explorer Batman’s name from public places and buildings, in May 2017, the council renamed Batman Park ( Coordinates 37°46′05″S 144°59′34″E / 37.768054°S 144.9926958°E / -37.768054; 144.9926958 ) as Gumbri Park, in honour of the last Aboriginal girl to be born on Coranderrk mission.[17]

Australia Day[edit]

In August 2017 the City of Darebin followed the City of Yarra Council in deciding not to celebrate Australia Day events. This was criticised by conservative commentators,[18][19] with the Federal government subsequently removing the council's powers to hold citizenship ceremonies.[20]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

In the lead-up to the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey the council announced it will allow pro same-sex marriage campaigners to use its facilities and services (for free) and deny this access to those of an alternate view. This was criticised by conservative commentators but welcomed by community members.[21]

The council subsequently reversed its plans to oppose those campaigning for the 'no' vote.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2017-18: Population Estimates by Local Government Area (ASGS 2018), 2017 to 2018". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2019. Estimated resident population, 30 June 2018.
  2. ^ "BankWest Quality of Life Index 2008" (PDF). BankWest Quality of Life Index 2008. BankWest. 20 August 2008. p. 8. Archived from the original (pdf) on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Economic profile - City of Darebin -". Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  4. ^ "2011 Census QuickStats: Darebin (C)". Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Educational qualifications - City of Darebin -". Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Ancestry - City of Darebin -". Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Method of travel to work - City of Darebin -". Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  8. ^ Lyle Allan (2010), "Dummy candidates and the end of Labor endorsements. The Darebin Council election of 1998," in Recorder (Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Melbourne Branch), No. 268, Page 4.
  9. ^ David L. Elsum (1997), Inquiry into the Darebin City Council (Elsum Report), Victorian Government Printer, Melbourne
  10. ^ Elsum Report, p.53
  11. ^
  12. ^ Lucas, Clay (3 September 2014). "Darebin council overlooks concerns over chief executive Rasiah Dev to boost rich pay packet". Retrieved 22 August 2017 – via The Age.
  13. ^ City Editor, Jason Dowling (21 June 2012). "Ombudsman told of Darebin bribes". Retrieved 22 August 2017 – via The Age.
  14. ^ "Turf war erupts in Northcote". Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  15. ^ "High-rise plans for Preston Market". Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  16. ^ "Inner-city haven – Property – Domain". The Age. 24 June 2006. Retrieved 4 July 2008.
  17. ^ Gardiner, Ed (11 May 2017). "Batman Park in Northcote to be renamed Gumbri Park". Herald Sun. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  18. ^ Clure, Elias (21 August 2017). "Melbourne's City of Darebin council decides to dump Australia Day ceremonies". ABC News. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  19. ^ Wahlquist, Calla (22 August 2017). "Second Melbourne council votes to cancel Australia Day ceremony and celebrations". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  20. ^ "Darebin council stripped of citizenship ceremony after controversial Australia Day vote". ABC News. 22 August 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Darebin Council to pass motion to offer resources to marriage equality campaign". Herald Sun. 16 August 2017. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  22. ^ Gardiner, Ed (22 August 2017). "Darebin Council backs down on plans to oppose 'no' side in same-sex marriage debate". Herald Sun. Retrieved 23 August 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°44′S 145°01′E / 37.733°S 145.017°E / -37.733; 145.017