Moving Melbourne: Cities Don't Stand Still

These photographs capture a city in constant motion from the collections of the State and National Archives, with modern-day photographs from Melbourne street photographers


Pancakes (1980/1982) by National Archives of AustraliaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)


This image of a
Supa Roo BMX (Bicycle Motor Cross) was taken around 1980 at a
Melbourne skate park for ABC TV Melbourne to be used as a backdrop image. Supa
Roo bicycles were manufactured in Adelaide, South Australia in the early 1980s.
They were made for the burgeoning BMX scene which arrived in Australia in the
late 1970s having originated in the US in 1969; although similar sports like
the United Kingdom’s Cycle Speedway
and the Dutch Fietscross have been around since the 1920s. Competitive BMX
racing is usually on dirt tracks where riders perform extreme stunts. The shoes
are Dunlop Pancakes which were
marketed specifically to BMX enthusiasts. The word pancake has two meanings in
BMX parlance: the first is to lay the bicycle on its side, parallel to the
ground, mid-jump; it also means to crash while attempting to land a jump. This
shoe didn’t last long as it was essentially an expensive re-branded version of
the more popular Dunlop Volley. 

Holidaymakers (circa 1940s) by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)


The 1960s were an era of leisurely paced travel, where
passengers regularly chose ships, rather than aircraft to take them to their
international destination. Passenger liners varied greatly in price and
comfort, from the workhorse migrant liners to luxury cruisers. The passengers in
this image are enjoying the facilities aboard the Sitmar flagship TSS Fairsky, which brought British
immigrants to Australia throughout the 1960s and 1970s and began purely
recreational services in 1962. This photograph was used in promotional material
advertising Sitmar’s luxury cruises to Victorian holiday makers.

Woman In Black by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Woman In Black 

A stream of commuters make their way up an
old timber footbridge despite Footscray Council’s repeated requests to the
Railway Department to replace it, arguing the narrow and out of date ramps were
often an obstruction for users. Many complained that this was inadequate for a
station where the volume of traffic was second only to that of Flinders Street.
The stark contrast of the lone woman in black making her own way away from the
bustling crowd draws the eye, and highlights the many women in the scene who
are travelling professionals in their workwear and carrying suitcases. From the
1920s, commerce and public administration were predominantly female
occupations, clerical work in particular. Despite their professional
contribution, their wages, on average were only 54% of the basic male wage and
their participation in the workforce was considered secondary to their domestic

No. 41 by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

No. 41

Here are St Kilda commuters boarding
Tram No.41 which was in service until
1958. It was one of the work-horses of Melbourne’s public transport system
before the network was modernised. The former Victorian Railways tramcar sat
abandoned for some 30 years in Brighton until the
Melbourne Tramcar Preservation Association in Bendigo started restoring it in
2001. By 2004 it was the first electric tramcar to be returned to its
former operating condition.

Even as modern technology takes hold, a
restoration industry lives on as these iconic vehicles are preserved for future
generations by groups like the Bendigo Heritage Rail Workshop who restore
retired trams for novel purposes like art pieces and restaurants. Tram No. 918,
for example, circled the city for over 50 years but is now the Dja Dja Wurrung
Tram. Last year it became part of Bendigo Tramway’s Vintage fleet adorned
inside and out including audio narration by Clan members sharing the
40,000-year traditions of Bendigo’s first people. Time may move forward but
these icons move with it, continuing to serve and connect the people of

The Great Ocean Road (1918) by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road was first planned
in the 1880s but the project didn’t gain momentum until the end of the First
World War. The chairman of the Country Roads Board contacted the State War
Council with a proposal that funds be provided for re-employment of returned
soldiers and a road be built as a memorial to all those who were killed in the
‘Great War’. The road is essentially the world’s largest war memorial.
Construction of the Great Ocean Road officially began in 1919, when the Premier
of Victoria detonated an explosive charge near Lorne. It was back-breaking work
for the returned soldiers traversing steep coastal mountains with no heavy
machinery to help, only picks, shovels and horse-drawn carts. After fourteen
years of construction, the Great Ocean Road was officially opened in 1932.
Early road travellers initially paid a toll, drivers paid two shillings and
sixpence, and passengers one shilling and sixpence. The toll was removed when
the trust which funded the construction handed over the road as a gift to the
State Government in 1936.

Sunday Drive (1962) by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Sunday Drive

The weekend drive is a mainstay of Australian
culture, and where better to visit than Victoria’s alpine region. This
camper-van is heading towards Bright with the Kiewa Valley and snow-capped
Mount Bogong in the background. Before European settlement, the Kiewa region
was home to the Dhudhuroa and Yaitmathang clans who lived off the Keiwa river.
Each summer, many neighbouring clans would travel to Mount Bogong to meet with
the locals, perform rituals, settle disputes and gather supplies. During the
first part of the 20th Century, the State Electricity Commission
(SEC) established townships in the area to house Kiewa Hydro Electric Scheme
workers. Once the project was completed, many stayed in the area to establish a
thriving tourism-based economy. Nearby Mount Beauty was, and continues to be, a
popular tourist destination where visitors can ski, hike, horse ride and
mountain bike along the scenic rivers and through picturesque bushland.

Rolling Rock Show (1980) by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Rolling Rock Show

The Big M 3XY Rolling Rock Show was a creative concept to make use of the Big M fun bus as a promotional vehicle during the summer of 1980. The bus toured regional Victorian beaches and ended with a final concert at Festival Hall on Australia Day weekend. The group selected to tour the Big M bus were The Reels, who were described by the Big M marketing co-ordinator as “a somewhat new-wave group, but with younger members and a brighter, more pop sound.” The final concert held at Festival Hall was a free event which featured the bands Australian Crawl, The Reel, U.K. Squeeze and Mi-Sex. An estimated 4000-5000 people attended and the highlight of the concert was the performance of the group Mi-Sex “who had the crowd dancing on the seats.” 

Rolling Rock Show, Public Record Office Victoria, 1980, From the collection of: Public Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)
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The Bureau by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

The Bureau 

From 1908 to 1959 government travel
experts offered their services to the public for free at the Victorian Government Tourist Bureau. The Collins
Street office is pictured here during the 1940s with customers lined up ready
to book their vacations. This particular office opened in 1939 and developers
hoped the striking interior features would promote tourist traffic. The
interior murals were created by Gert Sellheim who won the 1939 Sir John Pulman
prize for his work. The flooring is an example of Sellheim’s interest in
Aboriginal art - note the crocodile figure by the little girls’ feet.
Newspapers at the time highlighted that the Aboriginal motifs were faithful
representations of cave drawings in Western Australia and a striking feature of
the new building. Appropriating Aboriginal art was common among post-war
artists, who saw it worthy of imitation as it showed what made Australia
unique. Although they deeply appreciated the art, this photograph belongs to a
time before inappropriate cultural absorption and Indigenous intellectual property
rights were recognised.

Nightly Broadcast (1976) by National Archives of AustraliaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)


This photograph is part of a large series of images
created or collected by the ABC Melbourne to be used as backdrop images behind
news readers to illustrate concepts, events or places that appeared in their
nightly news broadcasts. The long exposure photograph of vehicle lights as they
cross the Bourke and Spring Street intersection in Melbourne CBD evokes a city
in constant transit. Perhaps ironically though, this photographic trick removes
most of the evidence of people from the scene. The only humans viewed are those
waiting patiently for a tram; their lack of movement allowing them to be
captured on film. 

Honda Civic (1982) by Public Record Office VictoriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Honda Civic

After decades of conflict, anti-Japanese sentiment
and trade restrictions, Australia began developing strong trade partnerships
with Japan throughout the 1960s and 70s. By the 1980s road vehicles were
Japan’s biggest export commodity to Australia. These cheap and reliable cars
flooded the market, outselling all but the local favourite’s Ford and Holden. Pictured
here is a newly arrived shipment of Honda, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu vehicles. Among
them are the ubiquitous workhorse van, Mitsubishi
L300 Express and the popular small family car, Honda Civic.

How we roll (2017) by Janice WardPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

How We Roll

"Many times when I was out shooting in the city at night, I came across this gentleman and his little dogs, one of them is crippled and gets around on a set of wheels. He certainly doesn’t let his disability keep him standing still." Janice Ward, photographer.

Working in Orange (2018) by Jacqueline HodderPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Working In Orange

"Taken from an overpass, this photograph shows the replacement rail line as a result of the level crossing removal between Frankston and Kannanook Stations. This image represents a city continually growing and expanding. Melbourne must re-adjust itself to new and competing demands and, in order to accomplish this, requires workers. The workers do not stand still, they are constantly moving to create links to a city through new and replacement railways." Jacqueline Hodder, photographer.

Skater boy (2015) by Andrew WilsonPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Skater Boy

"With the emergence of climate change the people of Melbourne are looking for healthier ways to commute. This example shows Skater Boy who has been ‘Melbournised’ with coffee, UGG boots and a cool attitude, doing his best to save the world." Andrew Wilson, photographer.

Warrior Walk (2014) by Wayne QuillamPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Warrior Walk

"Indigenous men walked the streets of Melbourne as warriors, warriors that respect, protect and stand by women." Wayne Quilliam, photographer.

Cycles at sunset (2015) by Roy PhillipsPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Cycles At Sunset

"Here we see the interplay of pedestrians, cyclists and trams at one of Melbourne's busiest intersections - La Trobe and Swanston Streets. We see that, far from chaos, there is a symmetry at work." Roy Phillips, photographer.

Through rain, hail or shine (2017) by Alejandra OlavarriaPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Through Rain, Hail Or Shines

"This image was taken during a typical Melbourne torrential downpour. It was a quintessential Melbourne spring day when the rain began. It didn't stop for 10 minutes, and neither did Melburnians going about their Saturday on Chapel St. Melbourne does not stop, and neither do its people, no matter what season the day brings." Alejandra Olavarria, photographer.

Travellers (2015) by Stephen BoxshallPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

The Travellers

"I found myself intrigued by this young couple and their surroundings as we travelled by tram along St Kilda Road after leaving the National Gallery of Victoria late on a summer’s afternoon." Stephen Boxshall, photographer.

Whispers (2018) by Darren McLeodPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)


"On a busy day it is difficult for people to give time to anything else besides their destination. This man sings classical opera to a crowd in transit, most of whom have headphones in their ears. Those that connect get to reap the reward." Darren McLeod, photographer.

Climbing, Descending, Standing (2008) by John RobbPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Climbing, Descending, Standing

"This is the southeast stairwell of Docklands Stadium during the 3rd quarter break of an AFL night match in August 2008. The aperture of the stairwell fit into the frame of the camera." John Robb, photographer.

Rowers in the Mist (2013) by Kai O'YangPublic Record Office Victoria (State Archives of Victoria, Australia)

Rowers In The Mist

"The morning fog was just about to break under the sun and the mist was just golden within the rowers. Melbourne has lots of people doing all kinds of sports, even on a winter’s morning where it’s all foggy, one can stand still and find people rowing on the Yarra." Kai O’Yang, photographer.

Credits: Story

Moving Melbourne is based on a larger physical exhibition that was displayed at the Victorian Archives Centre from 27 October 2018 through to 2019.

The curators were Heather Ogilvie, Jelena Gvozdic, Hollie Bulleen, Sarah Harris and Kevin Hoey. The exhibition was produced by the VAC Gallery team featuring photographs from PROV and NAA collections, and photographs contributed by Melbourne street photographers (credited throughout).

The exhibition was adapted for Google Arts and Culture by Andrew Joyce.

To find out any details about the photographs shown within the online exhibition please contact

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.