In Footscray, you can buy a bowl of pho, get salmonella poisoning, or hire the latest pirated Paris By Night DVD. You can get by in Footscray without needing a scrap of English as long as you know plenty of Vietnamese: cám ơn, xin lỗi, vâng. Footscray (aka ‘Fruitspray’) is Melbourne’s Viet capital. Or at least it used to be.
Everything’s different now. Though Vietnamese gentrification is to be expected with most Indochinese immigrants no longer dressing up in ‘De Paul finery’ (Alice Pung, Unpolished Gem, 2006), it’s surprising to see so many new African and Indian businesses next to the Nguyens, the Les, and the Trans. And while Little Saigon Supermarket is still predominantly Vietnamese, its stores are beginning to hire employees of other ethnic backgrounds.
This is not the first time Footscray has had a change of face(s):
Until the 1940s the population of the Footscray area was overwhelmingly Australian born or from the British Isles. Following the Second World War waves of migrants and refugees arrived from Europe and the Americas and by 1966 almost one-third of the population was overseas born, mostly from Italy, Greece, Malta, Poland, the former Republic of Yugoslavia, and Germany. (Maribyrnong City Council – History)
One can still find remnants of bygone eras:
As the Vietnamese move out into other suburbs, Footscray will no longer be associated with the Indochinese, but more with African, Middle Eastern, or Yugoslavian minorities. I thought I’d take some photos/footage during my Saturday grocery shop to document this Brave New Footscray: