Exploring Clayton, Australia's most diverse suburb


Of Australia's more than 8,350 suburbs, Clayton in Melbourne's south-east ranks most diverse based on the birthplaces of its population.

Residents of Clayton, in Melbourne's south-east, draw from 112 countries.

While a handful of other suburbs, such as Melbourne and Auburn in New South Wales, have slightly more birthplaces represented, they are less evenly spread in their population, resulting in a lower diversity ranking on SBS' Diversity Index.

The 2011 Census found that 29.9 per cent of Clayton's 15,543 population was born in Australia, 17.8 per cent in China, 10.3 per cent in India and 5.3 per cent in Malaysia.

The suburb's hub is the shopping and restaurant strip that runs along Clayton Road.

Ping's Dumpling Kitchen is owned and run by Chinese migrant David Chen.

"I come to Australia 26-years ago. At that time China [was] not so good. So I wanted to get a life change," he said.

The married father-of-one ran a green grocers, a charcoal chicken shop and two-dollar shop before entering the restaurant business.

Mr Chen loves the freedom Australia affords him.

"You can speak, talk anything you like. You can do whatever you like and it is not against the law," he said.

Across the road stands Clayton's Fresh Fruit Mart, which was established by Italian migrants almost 40 years ago and remains in family hands.

It stocks a vast array of colourful fruits and vegetables - some familiar, some not-so-familiar.

"We’ve got young bitter melon," said shop co-owner Joseph Surace. "You’re not going to find that traditionally in your big supermarket chains.

"We try and cater to as many different nationalities as we can".

The majority of staff are born overseas and their experience cooking some of the lesser known fruits and vegetables is a valued resource.

"We do not always understand how to cook those sorts of foods so we generally ask the staff who generally use that sort of product," Mr Surace said.

Indian born Raj Chatakynda is a regular customer.

The hospitality worker moved to Australia almost 10 years ago and said he has not looked back.

"There is a lot of ways of growth personally [and] in terms of financially," he said.

Clayton's diversity is partly down to its international student population, based around a university campus.

Local MP, Cambodian-born Hong Lim, came to Australia as a student himself in the 1970s.

"Eight of my friends who came with me at that time, they went back,"said the Victorian member for Clarinda. "They were all killed by the Khmer Rouge."

Mr Lim is one of the first Asian-born people elected to a lower house Parliament in Australia and considers his constituency a model of multiculturalism.

"We feel so, so international. So Australian. So multicultural. It is just an incredible community."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch