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Fitzroy, Victoria facts for kids

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The Fitzroy skyline.jpg
The Fitzroy skyline, with the Fitzroy Town Hall visible on the far left
Fitzroy is located in Victoria
Location in Victoria
Population 10,445 (2016)
 • Density 7,460/km2 (19,300/sq mi)
Established 1839
Postcode(s) 3065
Area 1.4 km2 (0.5 sq mi)
Location 3 km (2 mi) from Melbourne CBD
LGA(s) City of Yarra
State electorate(s) Richmond
Federal Division(s) Melbourne
Suburbs around Fitzroy:
Carlton North Fitzroy North Clifton Hill
Carlton Fitzroy Collingwood
Melbourne East Melbourne Richmond

Fitzroy is an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 3 km north-east of the city's Central Business District (CBD) and located in the local government area of the City of Yarra. As of 2016, Fitzroy had a population of 10,445. Planned as Melbourne's first suburb in 1839, it later became one of the city's first areas to gain municipal status, in 1858. It occupies Melbourne's smallest and most densely populated area outside the CBD, just 100 ha.

Fitzroy is known as a cultural hub, particularly for its live music scene and street art, and is the main home of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Its commercial heart is Brunswick Street, one of Melbourne's major retail, culinary, and nightlife strips. Long associated with the working class, Fitzroy has undergone waves of urban renewal and gentrification since the 1980s and today is home to a wide variety of socio-economic groups, featuring both some of the most expensive rents in Melbourne and one of its largest public housing complexes, Atherton Gardens.

Its built environment is diverse and features some of the finest examples of Victorian era architecture in Melbourne. Much of the suburb is a historic preservation precinct, with many individual buildings and streetscapes covered by Heritage Overlays. The most recent changes to Fitzroy are mandated by the Melbourne 2030 Metropolitan Strategy, in which both Brunswick Street and nearby Smith Street are designated for redevelopment as Activity centres.

It was named after Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, the Governor of New South Wales from 1846 to 1855. It is bordered by Alexandra Parade (north), Victoria Parade (south), Smith Street (east) and Nicholson Street.


Brunswick street fitzroy looking south in 1906
Looking south down Brunswick Street in 1906

Fitzroy was Melbourne's first suburb, created in 1839 when the area between Melbourne and Alexandra Parade (originally named Newtown) was subdivided into vacant lots and offered for sale.

Newtown was later renamed Collingwood, and the area now called Fitzroy (west of Smith Street) was made a ward of the Melbourne City Council. On 9 September 1858, Fitzroy became a municipality in its own right, separate from the City of Melbourne. In accordance with the Municipal Act, on 28 September 1858, a meeting of ratepayers was held in 'Mr Templeton's schoolroom, George street' to prepare for a local council election, with Dr Thomas Embling, MLA for Collingwood, presiding. The council election took place two days later and the first councilors were; Thomas Rae, George Symons, Edward Langton, Henry Groom, Benjamin Bell, Edwin Bennett and Thomas Hargreave. The first council meeting, held after the declaration of election, was at the Exchange Hotel, George Street, and Symons was unanimously elected chair.

Surrounded as it was by a large number of factories and industrial sites in the adjoining suburbs, Fitzroy was ideally suited to working men's housing, and from the 1860s to the 1880s, Fitzroy's working class population rose dramatically. The area's former mansions became boarding houses and slums, and the heightened poverty of the area prompted the establishment of several charitable, religious and philanthropic organisations in the area over the next few decades. A notable local entrepreneur was Macpherson Robertson, whose confectionery factories engulfed several blocks and stand as heritage landmarks today.

VictoriaParade Fitzroy
Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, 1935

The establishment of the Housing Commission of Victoria in 1938 saw swathes of new residences being constructed in Melbourne's outer suburbs. With many of Fitzroy's residents moving to the new accommodation, their places were taken by post-war immigrants, mostly from Italy and Greece and the influx of Italian and Irish immigrants saw a marked shift towards Catholicism from Fitzroy's traditional Methodist and Presbyterian roots. The Housing Commission would build two public housing estates in Fitzroy in the 1960s; one in Hanover Street and one at the southern end of Brunswick Street.

Before World War I, Fitzroy was a working-class neighbourhood, with a concentration of political radicals already living there. Postwar immigration into the suburb resulted in the area becoming socially diverse. Many working-class Chinese immigrants settled in Fitzroy due to its proximity to Chinatown. There is also a noticeable Vietnamese community, a small enclave of Africans, and the area (particularly Johnston Street) also serves as a centre of Melbourne's Hispanic community, with many Spanish and Latin American-themed restaurants, clubs, bars and some stores.

Like other inner-city suburbs of Melbourne, Fitzroy underwent a process of gentrification during the 1980s and 1990s. The area's manufacturing and warehouse sites were converted into apartments, and the corresponding rising rents in Fitzroy saw many of the area's residents move to Northcote and Brunswick. In June 1994, the City of Yarra was created, by combining the Cities of Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond.


Fitzroy Memorial Rotunda
Fitzroy Memorial Rotunda, in honour of Fitzroy residents who died during World War I.

Fitzroy's topography is flat. It is laid out in grid plan and is characterised by a fairly tightly spaced rectangular grid of medium-sized streets, with many of its narrow streets and back lanes facilitating only one-way traffic. Its built form is a legacy of its early history when a mixture of land uses was allowed to develop close to each other, producing a great diversity of types and scales of building.


In the 2016 Australian Census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Fitzroy had a population of 10,445. The median age (33) was younger than the national average (38), while the median weekly individual income (AU$925 per week) was higher than the national average (AU$662). Only 24.9% of Fitzroy's population are married, compared to 48.1% nationwide.

53.3% of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 3.9%, Vietnam 3.3%, New Zealand 2.9%, China 2.7% and United States of America 1.2%. 61.0% of people only spoke English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Vietnamese 4.1%, Mandarin 2.5%, Cantonese 2.1%, Arabic 2.0% and Greek 1.6%.

The most common response for religion was No Religion at 48.2%.


Terrace housing on nicholson street fitzroy
Terrace housing along Nicholson Street

Fitzroy's housing is diverse. It has some of Melbourne's earliest surviving houses and one of Melbourne's most extensive stands of terraced housing, along with a mix of converted industrial and commercial buildings, walk-up flats, modern apartments and public housing.

Among the earliest homes are Royal Terrace (1853–1858) on Nicholson Street. Overlooking the Carlton Gardens, Royal Terrace was one of the first of its kind in Melbourne. Fitzroy's "character housing" (pre-war) is now mostly gentrified and highly sought after real estate.

As early as 1923, the City of Fitzroy was accused of 'creating slums' by allowing inappropriate development such as three houses on a 31-foot by 100-foot block. By 1953, the state Housing Minister Thomas Hayes, said that Camp Pell in Royal Park, Parkville, Victoria, which had been a temporary military camp for United States forces during the Second World War, 'might become a permanent emergency housing settlement' and 'Fitzroy slum dwellers who had refused offers of alternative accommodation by the housing Commission because they would have to pay higher rents would probably' be moved there. Two years later the headline was 'Outcry Rages Over Fitzroy Slums', as the state government accused the Commonwealth of bringing in immigrants that the states had nowhere to house, arguing that the 'Awful, dilapidated buildings in Fitzroy, crowded beyond description with exploited New Australians were a grave danger to the health of the community.' The Atherton Gardens high-rise public housing estate, on the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude Streets, is one of Melbourne's largest, built by the Housing Commission of Victoria as part of its controversial "slum clearance" urban renewal program in the 1960s. The commission was established by the Housing Act 1937 in response to slum housing in Melbourne, and operated under the Slum Reclamation and Housing Act 1938.

Due to its desirability as a place to live, Fitzroy faces increasing pressure for residential development. Recent residential projects in Fitzroy have sought to express a sense of Fitzroy's urban character in various ways and have been hotly contested in some cases.



Fitzroy street art
Various kinds of street art adorn many buildings throughout Fitzroy

There are many small commercial art galleries, artist-run spaces and artist studios located within the suburb. Fitzroy has a thriving street art community and is also the home of Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces and the Centre for Contemporary Photography.

Live performance

Fitzroy is a hub for live music in Melbourne, and plays host to several prominent venues; The Old Bar, Bar Open, the Evelyn Hotel, Gertrudes Brown Couch, and Cape Live. The well-known Punters Club was also located in the area; however, it was forced to close in 2002. During the late 1970s, Fitzroy was home to the little bands scene (also known as the "North Fitzroy Beat"), which gave rise to experimental punk acts the Primitive Calculators and Ollie Olsen's Whirlywirld, rock group Hunters & Collectors and Lisa Gerrard, of Dead Can Dance.


The Moran and Cato warehouse designed by R.A. Lawson is considered to be of high architectural merit. The Champion Hotel is notable for its fanciful Edwardian design.

A number of buildings and sites have been included on the Victorian Heritage Inventory (VHI) or classified by the National Trust (NT). These include:



Devonshire Arms Hotel
The Devonshire Arms; the oldest extant building in Fitzroy

Fitzroy has a large number of pubs for such a small suburb. The former Devonshire Arms hotel was located in Fitzroy Street and remains the oldest building in Fitzroy. There are many other pubs in Fitzroy.


The tiny suburb of Fitzroy has many cafés. Only one of the original three cafés is still standing – Marios. Bakers relocated north, and closed in 2007, while The Black Cat has transformed itself into a bar, but still retains its onstreet garden. In fact Silas is the oldest café, located between King William and Moore Streets, on the west side.

With the advance of gentrification, a variety of cafés in different styles have opened up and down Brunswick Street, on Smith Street, parts of Gertrude Street and in some of the back streets, in former milk bars and warehouse sites.

In popular culture

The 2010 Australian television show Offspring was set almost entirely in Fitzroy. The main characters of the show were often seen at the Black Cat, a Brunswick Street bar. Fitzroy has also featured in episodes of a number of Australian TV shows, including City Homicide and Rush (notably in Season 3, where the team shot at Fitzroy Town Hall to commemorate the death of a former colleague).

Australian musicians have also made mention of Fitzroy in their lyrics. Clare Bowditch made a reference to Fitzroy in the song Divorcee by 23, as did the musical comedian The Bedroom Philosopher in the song Northcote (So Hungover). In his song Slater, American rapper Tyler, The Creator mentions skating to Fitzroy. Most notably, ARIA award winner Dan Sultan has the song Old Fitzroy, the black and white video for which is shot entirely in Fitzroy, featuring shots of and from Atherton Gardens, as well as shots of a number of Fitzroy pubs.

Social and community services

The health needs of Fitzroy residents and other Melburnians is served by St Vincent's Hospital.

There are two primary schools in Fitzroy: Fitzroy Primary School (government school) and Sacred Heart Primary School (Catholic school). Fitzroy High School is located in North Fitzroy.

A long tradition of community activism and civil society with many social and community service organisations having been based in Fitzroy. Organisations currently operating in the suburb include; the Fitzroy Legal Service, Yarra Community Housing Limited, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Tenants Union of Victoria, a free legal service for residential tenants.


Fitzroy Melbourne
Brunswick Street
A1 245 at St Vincents Plaza on route 112 (tram)
St Vincents Plaza tram interchange

Fitzroy's major road arterials are Brunswick Street (north-south) and Johnston Street (east-west). Other main roads include Victoria Parade, Nicholson Street, Smith Street and Alexandra Parade, which circumnavigate the suburb. It is characterised by a fairly tightly spaced rectangular grid of medium-sized streets, with many of its narrow streets and back lanes facilitating only one-way traffic. Traffic and parking congestion is a problem and Fitzroy and local councils have implemented strategies to keep this traffic off residential side streets. It has been the site of several controversial inner city freeway proposals, particularly in the 1950s, however none of which have proceeded.

There are no railway stations located in Fitzroy itself, with the nearest train stations being Rushall in Fitzroy North, and Collingwood and Parliament Stations. An underground railway line running between the City Loop and Clifton Hill, with stations located beneath Brunswick Street and Smith Street, has been proposed.

Three tram lines pass through Fitzroy or its boundaries:

  • Route 86 (Bundoora – Docklands): travels along Nicholson Street, Gertrude Street and Smith Street.
  • Route 96 (East Brunswick – St Kilda): travels along Nicholson Street.
  • Route 11 (West Preston – Victoria Harbour Docklands): bisects Fitzroy along Brunswick Street.

The St Vincents Plaza tram interchange, in adjacent East Melbourne, is at the junction of Victoria Parade and Brunswick Street and handles tram routes 24, 30, 86, 109 and 11.

Critical Mass Melbourne - Brunswick St
Critical Mass Melbourne at Brunswick Street

Cycling is a very popular form of transport in Fitzroy, as with much of the City of Yarra. A station for the Melbourne Bicycle Share scheme is located near the St Vincents Plaza tram interchange.

The City of Yarra also supports a car sharing service, which has several locations in Fitzroy.


Fitzroy Cricket Ground Grandstand
Heritage-listed grandstand at Brunswick Street Oval, used primarily for cricket and Australian rules football

Formed in 1883, the Fitzroy Football Club, an Australian rules football club, went on to play in the Victorian Football League (now known as the Australian Football League). From 1884 until 1966, Brunswick Street Oval was it's primary home ground, even after the club stopped playing games at the venue, the Brunswick Street Oval still remained the primary training and administrative base of the Fitzroy Football Club in the VFL until 1970.

The club had some early success before relocating its home games several times and finally running into financial difficulties in the 1980s, forcing it to merge its AFL operations with the Brisbane Bears at the end of 1996, to form the Brisbane Lions.

They adopted a logo, song, and guernsey based on those of Fitzroy, would take eight Fitzroy players in the 1996 draft, three Fitzroy representatives would serve on the board, and the Lions would keep an office in Melbourne.

The Brisbane Lions would go onto win three premierships in a row in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and be considered one of the greatest teams of the modern era.

Brisbane Lions flag flying over Fitzroy town hall
Brisbane Lions flag flying over Fitzroy Town Hall on Napier Street before the 2021 finals series

The club keeps strong ties within the Fitzroy community, keeping a social club at the Royal Derby Hotel for Victorian Lions fans, and maintaining links with the Fitzroy VAFA team by sponsoring a men’s and women’s player each season.

The strong support of Fitzroy club legends such as Kevin Murray, Garry Wilson, Mick Conlan, Paul Roos, and many more, have only added to the Brisbane Lions being considered a direct continuation of Fitzroy in the AFL.

Fitzroy's non-AFL operations came out of administration after the Brisbane merger in 1998, and the clubs shareholders voted for it to continue with the goal of resuming its playing operations. After sponsoring various local clubs, Fitzroy merged with the University Reds and finally returned the playing field after a 13-year absence, participating in the 2009 Victorian Amateur Football Association season with its home games played out of Brunswick Street Oval. Since that time, Fitzroy have doubled their membership and achieved promotion twice within the VAFA. The club currently plays in the premier B division.

The Fitzroy Stars Football Club are an Indigenous club that joined the Northern Football League in 2008. They currently play their home games at Crispe Park in Reservoir with the club's off-field administration still based in Fitzroy.

Fitzroy United Alexander Football Club, now Heidelberg United, was Fitzroy's first ever sporting club to play at a national level. Founded by Melbourne's inner eastern Greek community, the club was relocated to the Brunswick Street Oval in early 1971 but later departed by late 1978. Whilst the club was based in Fitzroy, the club was initially participating in the Victorian State League where it was crowned state champions in the 1975 season. With the club's on and off-field strength, Fitzroy was invited to be an inaugural participant of the National Soccer League, the former highest level of soccer in Australia, where the club became the suburb's first national sporting team. Although administration and club training was based at Fitzroy, the club used various venues in Melbourne for its home matches. The suburb's first domestic first tier sporting match of any code was played at the Brunswick Street Oval on 2 May 1977, with Fitzroy United defeating Brisbane Lions 4–1 in front of over 4000 attendees. The club participated in the 1977 and 1978 seasons as 'Fitzroy' finishing third and fifth respectively. In late 1978, the club and its administration was relocated to Olympic Village Stadium in Heidelberg West prior to the 1979, with name being changed to Heidelberg United FC as a result of a better stadium deal and there being a larger Greek community in Heidelberg West than Fitzroy.

Fitzroy City Serbia Soccer Club, a soccer club formed in 1953 by Serbian migrants, is based in Fitzroy. The club is currently playing in the Victorian State League Division 3 South-East and play their home games at Fairfield Park, with the club's off-field administration still based in Fitzroy.

The Fitzroy Baseball Club, known as the Fitzroy Lions, is a baseball club founded in 1889 to represent Fitzroy. The club has five senior teams competing in the Baseball Victoria Summer League, as well as junior sides representing the club at every age level.

The Melbourne Chess Club, the oldest chess club in the southern hemisphere (est. 1866).

Notable people

  • Sir Doug Nicholls (1906–1908) – Aboriginal activist, pastor, and sportsman
  • Francis Birtles (1881–1941) – adventurer
  • Jack Cooper (1889–1917) – Australian rules footballer.
  • Brody Dalle (1979–) – lead singer of The Distillers.
  • Bruce Dawe (1930–) – poet
  • Alfred Deakin (1856–1919) – second Prime Minister of Australia.
  • Arthur Drakeford (1878–1957) – politician
  • Florrie Forde (1875–1940) – music hall artist, popular singer and entertainer.
  • E. Phillips Fox (1865–1915) – painter, associated with the Heidelberg School.
  • James Andrew Kershaw (1866–1946) – scientist
  • David William Brisbane (1888–1960) – engineer
  • Keith Hancock (1898–1988) – historian
  • Harvey brothers – cricketing family
    • Neil Harvey (1928–) – Test cricketer, captained one Test.
    • Merv Harvey (1918–1995) – Test cricketer.
    • Ray Harvey (1926–) – first-class cricketer.
    • Mick Harvey (1921–2016) – first-class cricketer and Test umpire.
  • Donald Alaster Macdonald (1859–1932) – journalist, nature writer and sports commentator.
  • Bertram Mackennal (1863–1931) – sculptor
  • Mary MacKillop (1842–1909) – Roman Catholic nun and the only Australian saint, born on Brunswick Street.
  • Laurie Nash (1910–1986) – Test cricketer.
  • Bert Newton (1938–2021) – television personality.
  • Charles Nuttall (1872–1934) – painter, cartoonist and illustrator.
  • Jack O'Hagan (1898–1987) – musician
  • Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson (1870–1946) – author
  • Ben Simmons (1996-) – National Basketball Association player
  • Alma Thorpe (1935-) – an indigenous elder
  • Frank S. Williamson (1865–1936) – poet
  • Alfred H. Horsfall (1871–1944) – military surgeon
  • Anne Phelan (1948–2019) – actress
  • Tony Birch (1957-) - author, academic and activist

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