Why I stayed: Out-of-towners who stuck out the lockdown in Melbourne

All pictures by Jack Crnjanin
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Melbourne – a culturally diverse and artsy city with great bars and restaurants – has long been a drawcard for young people from across the country. But when our long lockdown began, the exodus was huge – anyone with somewhere else they could be, departed. Jack Crnjanin talked to some who chose to stay.

Cindy found herself leaving Brisbane at the same time she left an unhealthy relationship.

“Three days later I was on a flight down with a suitcase and $400 to my name. I was lucky enough my sister had already been living in Melbourne for a while, so we connected,” she says.

“I don’t think I really could have comprehended how much of my life felt constructed and forced after I let my past go. I did buy a car in July as a birthday present to myself. I’d been struggling with debt after my relationship, but my hard work had finally paid off.”

Jamie moved away from the Sunshine Coast’s humidity to Melbourne’s cool weather. 

“I really only knew one or two people here. But having to start from literal square one with no money, no job, and no house, I’ve proved to myself and my family that I’m capable of making a decent life for myself without using them as a crutch,” he says.

“To move back to Brisbane, or away to any other city would undermine the personal satisfaction that I get from being able to stand back and look at my life here and be really genuinely proud of what I’ve achieved on my own. I’ll always identify myself as a Melburnian, now more than a Queenslander probably.”

Lauren didn’t have much keeping her in Brisbane, so she moved down with her then partner.

“After [my partner] and I broke up, I learnt so much about myself, when I thought I was already grounded in my identity. So, getting to know ‘me’ better was something I didn’t expect to do,” she says.

“Moving to Melbourne definitely contributed towards that. And after all the drama of this year, getting to know ‘me’ even more is a motivation to stay here after lockdown.”

Shepparton felt more like a prison than a home to Tom. 

“I was offered to run a spin off from a community TV show, but I was always looking for a reason to leave Shepparton. The connections I’ve made here, the events and general atmosphere that Melbourne has [are keeping me here]. It feels more like a home than anywhere else.”

From a young age in Sydney, Ella decided only cool people lived in Melbourne.

“One day I wanted to be one of those cool people. After travelling the world, I decided that if I was going to come back to Australia I may as well move to Melbourne, so here I am,” she says.

“I’ve always been terrified of settling down. I was lucky enough to meet someone who made settling down feel safe, and in a way that let me keep my autonomy. If I hadn’t met him, I would have moved home to be with my family.”