Pride of the suburbs: When your community really has your heart

Che Thornbury who changed her name by deed poll to her favourite suburb that she lives in. Photo: Michael Rayner.
Che Thornbury who changed her name by deed poll to her favourite suburb that she lives in. Photo: Michael Rayner.

When Che Pilling first moved to Melbourne in January, she’d never heard of Thornbury.

However in the months since, the 29-year-old has become so enamoured with her new hood that she’s legally changed her surname – to Thornbury.

“When I moved here I had this really overwhelming sense of wellbeing that I don’t think I’ve ever had in my life,” says Thornbury, originally from Adelaide. “It just felt magical to me and I just felt like I belonged here. The community’s so lovely; it’s such a beautiful thriving little suburb.”

But changing her last name wasn’t exactly a split-second decision, says Thornbury, who had been thinking about a new surname since she was 15.

“I had a very difficult relationship with my dad and I never felt the connection with my surname. It never really felt like it was mine – it was almost a placeholder,” she says.

After her name change about two months ago, she celebrated with friends at the aptly named venue Welcome to Thornbury (technically in Northcote, but we digress).

Thornbury’s dedication to her new ‘hood makes her a standout, even if celebrities have been naming their offspring after places such as Paris and Brooklyn for years. Comedian Dave Hughes renamed his rescue dog from Barley to Barkly – after St Kilda’s Barkly Street.

Though many people speak of community fading away, local pride is going strong if the number of suburb-inspired Facebook groups and local merchandise offerings is anything to go by.

Down on the Mornington Peninsula, it’s almost a requirement to slap one of Simon Way’s stickers on your car.

The Mount Martha resident designed a few stickers for a local fundraiser about five years ago, but their success took him by surprise.

The most popular sticker, featuring the initials MM for Mount Martha, has sold close to 3000, followed by Safety Beach, Blairgowrie and Flinders.

“There’s a lot of pride down here, especially in Mount Martha,” says Way.

He says Mount Martha is still a hidden coastal pocket. “There are no real signs off the highway saying it’s here. The only sign to say Mount Martha’s here is basically when you’ve passed it.”

The stickers were originally targeted at tourists, but Way says locals, who move to the area for the lifestyle, embraced them.

“There’s so many people that have moved away and then they come back. It is known as the ‘Insular Peninsula’,” he laughs.

On the west coast, the owner of Postcode Stickers, Carlo Lowdon, is also doing a roaring trade among beach-loving locals.

“How it started was I grew up in a small town, which was Torquay, and you used to wave at everyone driving past,” he says.

But Lowdon says as the town grew, and more cars hit the road, it became harder to spot the locals. Thus, the stickers.

He says his Point Lonsdale, Torquay and Jan Juc postcode stickers are particularly popular. “Ocean Grove goes alright too.”

In the past six months, his business received a huge boost when 300 Australia Post offices began stocking his stickers.

Funky Town, aka Frankston, is also no stranger to local love. The council’s “I love Frankston” campaign was officially “rested” in 2014, but a community backlash over the decision means merchandise is still available.

That’s unless you prefer the rough-and-tumble stylings of Footscray. There, Ben Coyle, owner of The Dancing Dog Café, sells “I love Footscray” T-shirts and ‘I love Footscray/Footscrazy’ stickers.

Cottage Industry has much of Melbourne covered, with pennants for fans of Richmond, South Yarra, Brunswick and many other hotspots.

Community Facebook pages, and spin-offs of the original Humans of New York page, have sprung up all over Victoria. For instance, there’s the Humans of Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville and the Humans of Dandenong – celebrating some of the area’s more questionable charms.

Anna Blandford, of quirky greeting card company Able and Game, has long incorporated Melbourne train station names into her cards. “You are Epping amazing” is a bestseller.

Her recent Father’s Day range, requested by a member of a Facebook parenting group, proved another local winner.

Most popular were cards singing the praises of the Rezza (Reservoir) Dad and the WeFo (West Footscray) Dad.

Back in Thornbury, Che Thornbury has no plans of shifting.

“I actually want to buy here now if I can in the next 12 months,” she says. “This little pocket of Melbourne, it definitely has my heart.”