Academic assessments of Beacon Cove revisited

At the council meeting the other night, according to my notes, Port Melbourne’s councillor conveyed the following about Beacon Cove

  • There is a thriving community living there
  • The sensitivity with which the estate has been designed has had an impact on the value attached to living there
  • Residents love living in Beacon Cove
  • The BCNA (Beacon Cove Neighbourhood Association) has strong links with their community

While no assessment was made in the meeting about Beacon Cove’s relationship to the rest of Port Melbourne (regarding street layout or social connections), this still contrasted in some ways with Prof Kim Dovey’s allegations of ‘seclusion’, ‘segregation’ and ‘suffocating’ in Fluid Cities (Dovey 2005: 226).

Some people I mentioned this contradiction to suggested that the council has a good reason to be so positive about Beacon Cove; Beacon Cove means more rates. However, it was clear at the time that comments were being offered in jest rather than serious allegations. Anyway, a question asked during the meeting also made it rather clear that more neighbourhoods to administer means a higher workload for council.

When I looked into some of Dovey’s more recent work, I found a slightly altered picture of Beacon Cove in a chapter of Becoming Places co-authored by Dovey, Woodcock and Wood (2010). While this does not provide a different assessment of Beacon Cove’s street lay out, they do paint a more vibrant picture of how residents talk about their neighbourhood and the people who live there.

Despite the uniformity of the architecture, residents were quick to suggest social heterogeneity within Beacon Cove. […] ‘if you look at neighbours, across the road, we have a Croatian taxi driver from Mill Park, Maltese motor mechanic . . . insurance broker next door, a couple of gay women have moved in next door. Good mix of professional, working-class mix within the street itself.’ (Dovey, Woodcock & Wood 2010: 70)

The closure and uniformity of the urban form belies a more complex social reality as the place attracts diverse residents and embodies conflicting desires for retreat from as well as engagement with the city. (Dovey, Woodcock & Wood 2010: 71)

This chapter also suggests that a sense of belonging is provided by the place and sought by residents.

While the development is upmarket it is relatively ethnically diverse and has attracted residents without the class connections of traditional Melbourne, ‘people came here from [places] . . . where they weren’t accepted into the character of that area unless they’d been there 30 or 40 years’. (Dovey, Woodcock & Wood 2010: 70)

Residents recognize that property values are based in a clear distinction from the former working-class suburb yet they also want to be a part of the larger mix that constitutes the place: ‘we’ve got Housing Commission backing onto those houses there. There is a diversity here . . . You see it, but it doesn’t affect you much. But it’s there, and that’s nice.’ (Dovey, Woodcock & Wood 2010: 70- 71)

Perhaps the street lay out of Beacon Cove has helped, hindered, or had nothing to do with the social reality people encounter. However, what is clear is that Dovey’s earlier concerns about social closure are not repeated in his more recent research.



Dovey, K. (2005). Fluid city: Transforming Melbourne’s urban waterfront. Sydney, University of New South Wales Press.

Dovey, K., I. Woodcock, S. Wood. (2010). Slippery Characters: Defending and creating place identities. Becoming places: Urbanism/architecture/identity/power. K. Dovey. London ; New York, Routledge.


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