“The last thing you want is to be at the end of a transport route,” local businessman Banson Wong tells the ABC.
“You want to be at the midpoint of a transport route, because then you get traffic from both directions.”
The “gateway to the Mornington Peninsula” serves as a convenient pit stop on weekend drives or a spot to get off the train before continuing south for many Melburnians.
Frankston, on the other hand, isn’t just a pit stop for locals; it’s their home.
And its inadvertent designation as the peninsula’s transit lounge has had long-term consequences for the city and residents who live there on a daily basis.
‘Isolated from jobs’
For every 100 residents in Frankston City, there exists as few as 31 employment opportunities, according to data from the Committee for Greater Frankston.
“If you look around the area, you find that most residents have to travel out of the area to find employment,” Mr Wong, who also ran for city council in 2020, says.
More than 60 per cent of Frankston City’s working residents travel outside of the municipality to work, with about a third travelling to Greater Dandenong, Kingston and Mornington Peninsula.
It means local businesses in the city aren’t getting a lot of foot traffic during business hours, slowing local job growth.
The city’s distance from Melbourne, as well as the hassle of commuting, make it difficult to find work: it takes around an hour to get from Frankston to Melbourne by rail, and most of Greater Melbourne’s jobs are more than 45 minutes away by car.
Nearly 70% of Frankston residents drive to work, with just 7% taking public transportation — numbers that are 7.7% higher and 4.5 percent lower than the national averages, respectively.
But the Committee for Greater Frankston, a politically independent local think-tank, says extending the train line through to Baxter, 7 kilometres south of Frankston, would make travel far easier.
They maintain it would transform public transport across the peninsula, provide greater access to jobs, and help ease Frankston city’s undesirable role as a congested, commuter car park.
Committee member Upali DeSilva believes that extending the metro line would also encourage people from outside Frankston to consider working and even residing in the area.
“I mean, we have so many vacant shops now here. And if you have the right mix of restaurants and shopping, people will always come,” Mr DeSilva says.
Although the project has received widespread support, including substantial federal funding and recognition as a top infrastructure priority by Infrastructure Minister and Flinders MP Greg Hunt, supporters have been disappointed by the delays in its implementation.
Mr. Wong and Mr. DeSilva also point to Monash University’s Peninsula campus and the Frankston Hospital extension, both of which are expected to be completed by the end of 2024, as having significant potential for attracting residents and working professionals.
“The hospital is expanding, so that will certainly bring professional people too, so it does have that mix of professional people coming here … [it] will encourage the restaurants and cafes to open,” Mr DeSilva says.
But Professor Peter McDonald, a demographer at the University of Melbourne, sees Frankston’s current lack of public transport infrastructure and job opportunities as an ongoing disincentive for families and businesses to want to move into the area.
“Frankston’s kind of isolated from jobs,” Professor McDonald says.
“If you’re working in some kind of business, which [operates Melbourne-wide], it’s not a convenient place to be located.”
‘We’re not really being catered for’
Locals in Frankston hope that by creating more jobs close to home, demand for products and services will rise, making the region more appealing to small businesses.
Some residents say that the lack of cultural diversity in the area makes it difficult to operate their businesses.
David Chau, the owner of the Ginseng Asian restaurant, says he needs to go to Springvale to get supplies.
“Certain products that I need, you can’t obtain in Frankston,” Mr Chau says.
“For instance, Chinese soy sauce, both dark mushroom and light, are just not available. Noodles as well — thin and flat rice noodles, wheat noodles with different textures — I can’t get those in a Frankston supermarket.
“It’s a lot easier to buy stock that I need in [surrounding] markets or in Springvale.”
Having lived in the culturally diverse suburb of Box Hill, in Melbourne’s east, Mr Wong emphasises the importance of catering to a wide spectrum of communities.
“People like to move into a suburb where they feel comfortable,” Mr Wong says.
“If certain ethnic groups want to move here, they’d look around and say, ‘Well, look, we’re not really being catered for in Frankston’.”
Jessica D’cruze, a ten-year resident of Frankston, finally moved away because she felt cut off from the rest of Greater Melbourne.
Jessica’s family moved to Carlton after moving to Australia from India in 2001, but they abruptly packed up and moved to Frankston when the restaurant where her father worked closed its Melbourne location.
“When you move to a different country, there is this idea that you’re going to have a better opportunity,” Ms D’cruze says.
“So whatever decisions are made for you, you go with it.”
As a young student and aspiring artist, Ms D’cruze felt she was unable to pursue the life she wanted in Frankston — she spent a few years in the UK before returning to the inner suburbs of Melbourne.
“It wasn’t until I left [for] a different country, and then came back, that I realised just how isolating Frankston was, in a different way — in terms of how I saw no-one like me,” Ms D’cruze says.
“There are memories of us, me and dad [struggling] to hunt down the kind of spices we wanted to have and the kind of fish we wanted.
“I think we subconsciously assimilated because we had to.”
But for Banson Wong, who has lived in Frankston for 15 years after moving from the “leafy eastern suburbs”, the end of the train line is now his preferred home.
“Once you establish yourself in an area, you find out where the local shopping is, you get used to the scenery, the roads, the local people,” Mr Wong says.
Source: ABC World News