Shaping our city

Epic events bring back the buzz

4 December 2023

Meet your City of Melbourne councillors
Councillor Roshena Campbell

Councillor Roshena Campbell, like so many Melburnians, is looking forward to our city coming to life with Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

As council’s City Activation portfolio lead, she knows events provide a huge boost to the local economy while bringing the city to life both night and day. 

“Christmas and New Year’s Eve are such an important part of the year. A special time for families to come together and enjoy the season and also a make or break period for many of our small businesses,” she said.  

“We have to do everything we can to bring people back to the city. The best part of Christmas shopping in the city is of course that you get to soak in the festive atmosphere. You can’t replicate that online. To better support our city retailers this year Santa has a new home in Howey Place, a new Christmas wonderland at the heart of our retail district.

“We’ll have Christmas projections this year on Town Hall and our newest feature is a laser light show over the Yarra – Birrarung river every night from 9pm. Adding that excitement and joy back into doing the Christmas shopping is really important for driving visitation to the city.  

“I know a lot of families have had a tough year, the cost of living is biting hard, so we’ve focused on free Christmas activities so that Victorian families have plenty of reasons to visit.” 

A packed program is planned for the Christmas Festival from Christmas-themed movies to a festival maze, a roller rink and much more. Last year’s festival attracted more than 1.4 million people to the city and generated an economic impact of $130 million. 

Year-round the data shows Melbourne consistently succeeds as an events capital – but the city doesn’t stand still. Cr Campbell says she takes pride in the city’s ever-changing events calendar which brings people to Melbourne throughout the year. 

“We were delighted this year to launch a new festival, Now or Never, which brought 150,000 people to our city in the quieter winter season. It showcased music and technology and also world class dining in new locations.

“We were thrilled to bring live music back to the Royal Exhibition Building. We’re going to keep investing in those new experiences, not just to get people into the city, but to keep them coming back. 

“I have a young family and they love our major events. It might be Diwali at Fed Square, Moomba and of course on New Year’s Eve, enjoying the fireworks. This year the city will be sparkling with new events, including projections with a focus on Swanston Street. I love that about Melbourne, we don’t just do things well, we’re always looking for ways to improve them.” 

Fireworks erupt above the Melbourne skyline while crowds watch on from along the Yarra River - Birrarung.
New Year’s Eve fireworks are a highlight of City of Melbourne’s events calendar.

While the city’s bars and restaurants are benefiting from buoyant weekend and nighttime visitor numbers, council is aiming for an equally strong daytime economy.

“That will be my focus over the next year. We’re hosting a series of City Economy Summits with city businesses so I can hear directly from them what they want council to do to better support them.” 

Cr Campbell says advocating for small business is a rewarding part of her role as a councillor.

“Drawing people back to the city is both our greatest challenge but also the most important thing we can do as councillors. 

“When I made the decision to run for election, I knew the lockdowns would change the way our city operated and I wanted us to come out the other end a better, stronger city. Our work isn’t done. Our daytime economy is still lagging in parts – and behind that are really difficult stories from small business owners who have invested their lives and livelihoods in our city. So as a council we must do all we can to get people back into the city particularly on Monday and Friday. 

“We also have to invest in city cleaning, to make sure we have a sparkling city that people feel is vibrant and thriving. This is core business for us. I really want people to feel a sense of pride about Melbourne, to feel it’s the best city in the world.” 

A group of people standing in formation
Councillor Roshena Campbell (front row, fourth from right) is chair of the new City Economy Advisory Committee.

She sees the new City Economy Advisory Committee, which she chairs, as key to a sustained recovery. It signals a renewed effort to boost Melbourne’s appeal as an all day destination. Representatives of city businesses large and small have been invited to pool their ideas to identify opportunities for growth; and keep people rediscovering all that Melbourne offers residents, workers and visitors. 

“I’ve never felt government has all the answers,” she said. “People at the coalface in business understand the challenges facing our city better than anyone. The committee allows us to bring them together and get their insights and observations. So we will be in listening mode and are focussed on delivering solutions that will make a difference on the ground.”  

In signs of a stronger economy, shopfront vacancy rates have fallen, she said.

“So the trend is going in the right direction. We need to keep encouraging that sense of confidence about the city being a place in which to invest. Plenty of cities around the world are facing these challenges, but I think we’re up to it.” 

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