Footscray is an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, a few kilometres west of the CBD.
Long a working class area due to its close proximity to the factories and warehouses of Melbourne's nearby industrial centre, it is also home to a large concentration of the city's Vietnamese population and increasingly a hub for the growing East African community, home to many immigrants from Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea.
Footscray is also notable as the setting of Russell Crowe's breakout 1992 film Romper Stomper, which dealt with a fictional gang of neo-nazi skinheads and their battle with the Vietnamese immigrants.
Footscray is affectionately known by some Melbourne residents as "Footsy", "Footscrazy" and "Footscary".
Footscray Station can be easily reached from Southern Cross Station (on weekday mornings and weekends) or any City Loop station (on weekday afternoons) (in Melbourne's CBD) on the Werribee, Williamstown and Sunbury lines. If the train is not travelling via the City Loop, it is only a 6 minute train ride and most trains run express through the station before it, South Kensington.
A number of frequent bus routes also operate from the CBD to Footscray. The 402 operates every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends from St Vincents Plaza through the inner-north suburb of Carlton to Footscray. The 220 also operates through Queen Street from Gardenvale to Sunshine via Footscray, operating every 15 minutes on weekdays.
Forty per cent of Footscray's residents were born outside Australia, hailing from 135 countries and speaking more than 80 languages. This incredible diversity has fostered a vital street culture like no other in Melbourne.
Check out the Footscray Community Arts Centre, with non stop art exhibitions and an endless list of music gigs and theatre shows. In summer outdoor film screenings take place on the banks of the Maribyrnong River.
During early March 2011, 16 events under the banner "Feasting in Footscray" will celebrate the vibrant culinary and cultural fabric of the suburb. Rickshaw Run is just one event of many been run by the The Food & Wine Festival .
- Big West Festival. An arty eventful and fun festival and one of Australia's leading community based contemporary arts festivals, it takes place in Footscray and the inner West of Melbourne every two years, the next one in late 2015. People's Day is the main happening of this festival, with a whole day of events down by the Maribyrnong River.
- The Best of London Off Cut, Bluestone Church Arts Space, 10a Hyde St. July 26th-29th Thurs/Fri/Sat 7.30pm Sat/Sun 3pm. In Company Theatre Australia presents 15 minute plays from London’s prestigious Off Cut Festival. With over 1000 plays submitted over 3 years, In Company brings 6 award-winning 15 minute pieces from London to Footscray for only 5 performances. $20/$18 Con.
Downtown Footscray has a great community feel, with a dozen streets filled with small businesses.
While far from being one of Melbourne's shopping destinations, Footscray houses two large markets. The Footscray Market is a fresh produce and seafood market, catering particularly to the various ethnicities and local restaurants. Another large market is Little Saigon, which opened in 1992 to cater to the growing Asian population, but now has customers from all backgrounds. Little Saigon is noisy and crowded, with a wide array of tropical fruits and Asian produce.
There are also a number of interesting shops selling traditional African clothing, art and hair products.
Several large, over stocked $2 style shops, packed with weird Chinese imports, cheap plastic toys and household goods.
Like Victoria Street in Richmond, Hopkins Street running through the heart of Footscray is home to a number of very cheap Vietnamese restaurants and noodle shops.
The area centered around the Footscray Hub has become a Little Ethiopia of sorts, and Nicholson Street in particular is lined with African cafes and restaurants, mostly serving traditional Habesha cuisine (that of Ethiopia and Eritrea), characterized by stews and curries dished up on layers of flat bread called injera. Very tasty and ridiculously cheap.
- Cafe Lalibela, 91 Irving Street. Probably the best Ethiopian cuisine in the area, and not a main course over $12. Served in the traditional custom of sharing, the food is poured on layers of injera (flat, sour bread) covering one big plate to be shared by all at the table.
- African Town Cafe, 161 Nicholson Street. More Ethiopian cuisine, while local regulars pop in and out for a chat over excellent $2 Ethiopian coffee. All main courses $10.
- Olympic Doughnuts - Footscray railway station - Sold in an old caravan at Footscray station, the best in Melbourne.
- Lentil as Anything, 233 Barkly St. Footscray - A pay as you feel vegetarian restaurant. Whatever you do end up paying for your meal goes to a range of services that help new migrants, refugees, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.
- The Dancing Dog Cafe, 42 Albert Street Footscray. Footscray's only 'alternative venue'. Often hosts live music and other events. Open late at the weekends
- The Station Hotel, 59 Napier St. Footscray - Opposite the Town Hall. Casual bar, indoor and outdoor seating, coffee. One of the "Top five places to eat steak" as judged by the The Age Good Food Guide Dining Companion 2010.
- Plough Hotel - Above a large Pub, 4 Star - 333 Barkly Street, (Corner of Geelong Rd & Barkly St) Footscray, 3011
Footscray has a reputation as one of Melbourne's worst suburbs, long associated with the drug trade and considered a hotbed for crime and junkies. While crime has declined since the 1990s, drug activity is still an issue in the neighbourhood, particularly around Footscray Station. 2010 statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed that 48% of people detained by police in the area are heroin users, in contrast to the declining heroin use nationally over the last decade.
Footscray has considerably cleaned up over the last decade and should pose no threat during the day. The worst you are likely to encounter may be addicts begging for money. Exercise common sense, avoid undesirable looking characters, be polite if approached and leave valuables out of sight. If you must walk around at night, stick to the main roads, preferably with company.
Footscray is in the Maribyrnong local council area which had 1082 Crimes Against the Person recorded in 2010 while Melbourne's city center had over 3500 in the same year.
Like much of the western suburbs of Melbourne, the Footscray area has a large volume of heavy vehicle traffic. Coupled with the many narrow roads in the area this can be especially hazardous to cyclists.
- Maribyrnong City Council, 61 Napier Street, Footscray, ☎ +613 9688 0200, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 8:30am - 5pm (weekdays).