If you have been away a while, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t recognise Tarneit. Twenty years ago much of the land that now sits underneath houses was nothing but dust and dirt.
The middle child between the city and the country, Tarneit is a comfortable 30-minute drive west of Melbourne on the Princes Freeway.
To the east of the electorate you’ll find Laverton North, bustling with trucks traveling to and from one of the many large industrial warehouses in the area.
When the Western Ring Road opened in 1997, the area became one of the largest logistical hubs in the country. Companies like Coles, Kmart and Woolworths all chose Laverton North as the location for their large distribution centres.
In the middle of the electorate are the suburbs of Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit, Truganina and Williams Landing.
Close enough to the city to commute to work yet far enough away to escape the daily grind on the weekend, these suburbs have seen exponential growth over the past decade as they appeal to first homebuyers determined to find a way to enter the property market.
From metropolitan hubs to sprawling open developments, the area is just as diverse as the people who live there. As its population increases, so do the concerns held by its residents.
Some would argue that crime and perceived “African gangs” are the biggest threat to community safety, as persistent rates of aggravated crime statistics are a focus of extensive media coverage.
Others would argue that communities within the electorate are struggling to keep up with the high level of growth spurred on by median house prices that are more than $300,000 cheaper than in various eastern suburbs that are the same distance away from the city.
Wesley Armstrong, a 31-year- old netball coach who lives in Hoppers Crossing, describes his electorate as friendly, multicultural and vibrant.
Mr Armstrong is involved in the local netball association, running a club with more than 30 teams. He is also the coach of a regional team that competes in a yearly state titles event.
“With it being so multicultural I get to engage with lots of different communities and people,” says Mr Armstrong.
He adds that while he loves where he lives, he believes “the western suburbs are always looked down upon as a low class area”.
“I like my electorate. However, there have been concerns about gang violence in the area recently. Most times I feel safe but don’t go out at night alone to be on the safe side.”
Mr Armstrong notes that as the electorate is large and growing, community facilities must keep up.
“Infrastructure needs improving with better roads, more schools and more sporting areas,” says Mr Armstrong.
The population growth rate in Tarneit is 9 per cent compared to Greater Melbourne’s 2 per cent. Truganina sits at 11.9 per cent.
However, only 44.6 per cent of people in the electorate were born in Australia. In addition, almost seven out of every 10 in the area have parents who were both born overseas.
The most common ancestries in Tarneit are Indian (17.6 per cent), English (12.2 per cent), Australian (12.1 per cent), Filipino (4.2 per cent) and Chinese (3.0 per cent).
On weekends you’ll often see parents carting kids from football matches to netball games as the area is full of families. Nearly half of all households in Tarneit are two-parent households, compared to the 32 per cent average across Victoria.
Further to the west you’ll find Tarneit and Mount Cottrell, places that highlight the current development boom happening in the state’s west.
Much of the land in these suburbs is undeveloped or currently being divided into estates. Each year the urban sprawl edges further away from the Metro train lines and closer to the V-Line.
The seat is currently considered safe Labor at 14.6 per cent, with the electorate a hot-seat for independents and minority parties.
In the 2014 state election 10 candidates campaigned to become Tarneit’s MP. Yet every standing member since the electorate’s conception in 2002 has been aligned to the Labor party.
The seat is currently held by Telmo Languiller who had been speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, until he resigned last year over controversial expense claims. He will not contest the election.
Sarah Connolly, the Labor candidate, moved from Brisbane to Altona North about two years ago with her husband and two young children.
Mrs Connolly has stated that if elected, her main priorities for the area would be crime, infrastructure and community services.
Her Liberal opponent is Mr Glenn Goodfellow, who grew up in the area and has years of experience in the local council serving as deputy mayor in Wyndham in 2011-2012.
Mr Goodfellow has said that he wants to advocate for safety, while “taking a stand against overdevelopment, protecting our local amenity and the liveability of our suburbs.”
While the seat is considered safe Labor, is this the election that things become more marginal? Regardless, it is clear that voters in Tarneit will turn out in force in support of their community.