Meet your City of Melbourne Councillors
Councillor Davydd Griffiths
As international students return to Melbourne in their thousands, Cr Davydd Griffiths is at the forefront of the city’s welcome.
Some students met him soon after their planes touched down, when he headed out to Melbourne Airport to greet those arriving from China and other nations. Some were new to Melbourne, others returning after the COVID lockdowns interrupted their studies.
Cr Griffiths heads council’s Education and Innovation and says he’s passionate about opportunities in education.
“I was a school teacher in the past and I’ve worked in education policy along the way. Going out to the airport, standing out there for a few hours welcoming international students, is really to me one of the perks of the job. They will be spending years here studying and learning and hopefully some of them will decide that they want to stay and make their careers and family life in Melbourne too,” he said.
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Prior to the pandemic about 150,000 international students made Victoria their home. Up until 2020, demand for global education had been rising for some years and the City of Melbourne recognised that students living far from home might feel isolated and need additional support. We developed a range of initiatives delivered by a dedicated team, and organised events throughout the year for students to network and meet peers and mentors.
As a result, the QS Best Student Cities Rankings have recognised Melbourne as Australia’s best student city – and fifth best student city in the world.
Cr Griffiths welcomes the recognition for Melbourne’s program of events.
“Globally we rank really high and we’ve set ourselves the goal of trying to be the number one city in the world for student experiences. The City of Melbourne team does a lot to achieve that. We have six different events to welcome international students in the next few weeks,” he said.
This year as student numbers start to build again, the Lord Mayor’s Student Welcome program includes numerous events and city excursions to make all feel welcome and included.
“We’ll take them to the QVM night market and show them some of the things Melburnians love about the city,” Cr Griffiths said.
“We’ll also show them around The Couch International Student Centre, one of the initiatives we fund. The whole program gives them a crash course in all the things that are great about Melbourne. I also want to send a really big thank you to the University of Melbourne and RMIT where we had stalls during Orientation Week.
“Student life in general brings energy and excitement, also optimism, and it feeds into our nightlife, whether students have lived in Melbourne their whole lives, or came from the country as I did, or come from overseas or interstate. They have a sense of the future, of trying to do new and exciting things. I think all Melburnians benefit from having that really big cohort of students here.
“Also Melbourne is an education and knowledge city right throughout. I have friends who chose to live in Melbourne because of the school education their kids can have.”
Cr Griffiths said Melbourne’s knowledge sector and fertile environment for startups offers many opportunities for graduating students.
“That’s what students want to see, they have strong desires about what they want their careers to look like. They want to make a difference and Melbourne is the kind of city where they can get that. Their education can be transferred into innovative new businesses.”
Two years into this council’s four-year term, he reflects on the path from Melbourne’s economic downturn to its gradual recovery. In fact, he said, it was the pandemic that spurred him on to stand for election to local government.
“It was a really important time to join because the elections took place when the city was in lockdown due to COVID and it was obvious this council would have the opportunity to make some lasting and important changes to the life of our city,” Cr Griffiths said.
“I thought I could bring both a small business and a community background. I’ve lived in postcode 3031 since I was at university. I’ve run a bar here on Macaulay Road. I’m a life member of the local bowls club. This is where my family is,” he said, relaxing in the greenery of Kensington’s Skinny Park, just a short walk along the railway line from his favourite cafes and shops.
“During COVID when so many challenges faced the city and so many peak organisations for business were lobbying government it was harder for the community to have its voice heard. I was really conscious of wanting to do something about that.”
Now, he says, the council can take some pride in the revitalisation of the city.
“In the streets of Melbourne I’m seeing people coming back, I’m seeing the enthusiasm of tourists. It’s really only about a year ago that the COVID restrictions meant people couldn’t come in and enjoy our city.
“There was a real question mark then over what the city would eventually look like. We’ve made dynamic and exciting changes and we’re still trying to address some big social issues that we faced even before COVID and I’m keen to see that work continue.
“For example, ensuring the new economy that emerges in the city is a fair and just one, where locals have the opportunity to participate.”
For areas such as Kensington, the City of Melbourne’s new neighbourhood portals have been “working brilliantly” in his view.
“We’re focused on empowering those portals to make rapid responses to the community’s needs. All bureaucracies struggle for that responsiveness. I think the neighbourhood portals work really well, and when we had a council meeting out here at Kensington Town Hall last year it was great that locals had their voices heard.”