Richmond seat up for change in state election


If you’re out in Melbourne experiencing live music, taking a stroll along one of Victoria’s most iconic rivers, or searching for the best banh-mi and pho in the  city, chances are you’re in the state electorate of Richmond. The district is home to just over 75,000 residents across 14 square kilometres, positioned between the city streets of Melbourne and leafy suburbs of Kew and Hawthorn.

Richmond embodies a duality of landscapes; its western boundaries comprise of the behemoth arterials Punt Rd, Hoddle St and Nicholson St, often bumper to bumper with traffic. Its northern, eastern and southern boundaries, however, are elegantly defined by the natural bends of the Yarra River and Merri Creek, accompanied by lengthy footpaths and bike tracks.

With this diversity of geography comes a broad spectrum of living situations. More than half of the electorate’s residents live in apartments, in contrast to the national average of just one eighth, according to ABS data. Despite this, it remains entirely possible to find yourself comfortably cycling along its many bike paths, or kicking a football with friends in a quiet street of single-storey houses after seeing a match at the MCG.

The district is home to many families of Vietnamese, Chinese, Greek and Italian backgrounds, with non-English languages being spoken in a quarter of all homes.

The Australian Labor Party has held the seat of Richmond for more than 100 years, with the exception of a single term in the 1950s. The former housing and planning minister Richard Wynne has represented the district since 1999. In November last year, he announced he would not contest the seat in the 2022 election, choosing instead to retire.

Since then, Labor’s Lauren O’Dwyer has announced her candidacy for the seat, campaigning on issues like Indigenous affairs, climate change and the rising cost of living.

O’Dwyer’s platform closely resembles that of the Albanese government, which won Labor a majority in the recent federal election. But Greens candidate for Richmond, Gabrielle de Vietri, says Labor is “not serious about climate change”, arguing its climate policies are too little, too late.

“The Labor climate platform to get to 50 percent emission reductions by 2030 is just not far enough,” she said. “It really is as simple as saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue any new licenses for coal and gas.’ ”

The Albanese government approved its first new offshore oil and gas
exploration sites last week, including several sites along the coast of Victoria.

Vietri described climate policy as “the number one thing” differentiating her party from Labor in the upcoming state election.

As former mayor for the City of Yarra council, Vietri feels confident about her move from local to state politics. The Richmond district is largely covered by the City of Yarra council, currently governed by The Greens; as well as the federal seat of Melbourne, a stronghold for Greens leader Adam Bandt.

“I’d like to replicate some of the excellent decisions that we’ve made [in council] around climate change and equality at a state level,” she said.

Housing costs have become a significant sore point for those living in the Richmond electorate. Household rent in the area is 20 percent higher than the national average, and mortgage repayments are nearly double the national average.

During Wynne’s time as housing minister, Labor began its $5.3
billion building project which aimed to increase social housing supply by 10 percent by 2026.

But Vietri called the project a “deal with property developers to syphon money into their hands”. She argues the then housing minister
could have done more for current residents of public housing, particularly those in his electorate.

“You’ve got people living in two-bedroom apartments with nine family
members, because the waiting list is just so long for teenagers who grew up and became adults themselves, and can’t move out because there’s just nothing available,” she said.

Richard Wynne was invited to comment on the matter but did not respond.