Jet Set Melbourne

A new exhibition at Town Hall City Gallery celebrates the 1970s advent of Tullamarine Airport.

In 1970, Tullamarine International Airport opened, bringing the rest of the world to the city of Melbourne.

Tullamarine, an area that Prime Minister Gorton had described as ‘bleak’, ‘repellent’ and ‘nothing but a sea of mud’, quickly became the place-to-be for Melbournians.

When the airport opened, people didn’t just go out there to pick up their relatives from an overseas holiday or zip up to Sydney for a business trip. Going to the airport was a trip unto itself.

There was a fine-dining restaurant with a top chef from France, a 300-seat cinema, an exhibition hall and the futuristic Astro Jet Space Centre. To Melbournians at the time it was the epitome of modernity and progression onto the international scene.

And now the Town Hall City Gallery is bringing a taste of what exactly that period meant to our city, with its exhibition Jet Set Melbourne.

“The opening of Tullamarine signifies a time in Melbourne when the past and future overlapped,” says Simon Gregg, curator of the exhibition.

“Melbournians were swept up in the romance of international travel. It changed the way we saw the city.”

The exhibition shows the time before, during and after Melbourne’s coming of age, brought about by ‘Tulla’, as locals affectionately came to call it.

As you enter the gallery, it’s as though you are walking on clouds. Peering through aeroplane windows you see relics of that time as though you are looking out at the world from on high. There are artworks, souvenirs, old magazines and a myriad of photos to peer at through the glass.

Part of the exhibition also looks at the things that were lost, the things that we left behind. In the flurry and rush to build this prize location, older relics and history was paved over.

The nearby Southern Cross Hotel, which housed people such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and The Beatles, was built on top of the old Eastern markets which would be a heritage area now.

When Tullamarine freeway was built to accommodate traffic to the area, many houses were demolished and the Moonee Ponds Creek was built over entirely.

“The exhibition has a strong sense of nostalgia. I’ve always been interested in how Melbourne has changed over the years,” says Gregg.

“There was the Olympics, the gold rush; but the one that gets overlooked is the opening of the airport. It really brought about a change in the city.”

Jet Set Melbourne is located at the Melbourne Town Hall City Gallery, Swanston Street. It is a free exhibition running now until April 20.


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