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Once held by Australia’s longest-service prime minister Sir Robert Menzies and former Opposition leader Andrew Peacock, its streets are lined with heritage homes beyond the reach of most first home buyers.
It has the nation’s highest percentage of tertiary qualified residents, according to the 2011 census. And, with more than 50 schools within its 52 square kilometres, Kooyong, name for an Aboriginal word meaning resting place, has the sixth-highest proportion of students attending private schools.
For sitting MP Josh Frydenberg, now Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, pre-selection in 2010 was, in theory at least, a meal ticket for life. At the last election, he won more than 55% of the primary vote, well ahead of Labor candidate John Kennedy on just over 23%.
“He’s been marked for big things,” said Professor Brian Costar, of Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research.
He said that Kooyong’s relative affluence was the reason for the Liberals’ strong hold on the seat. The electorate’s median individual income is more than $700 per week, whilst the median household income is more than $1800 per week, according to the 2011 Census.
“If you look at the opinion polls, economic management (has always been) a Liberal issue,” Costar said.
With Kooyong’s 129,000 residents receiving the third largest deductions from negative gearing of any Australian electorate, according to a list compiled by the Australia Institute last year, housing and, in particular negative gearing, are key issues.
Kooyong has some of Melbourne’s highest house prices and these rising prices are a major concern, according to Lee Maher of Oak Estate Agents in Kew.
“The biggest challenges facing homeowners and first home buyers in their area is definitely the price range,” she said.
“There is a higher demand for renting, than buying. Closer to city means higher prices, and people are struggling.”
Paul Bird, Real Estate Institute of Victoria communications and policy manager, said, “In the year to March 31, the Kooyong electorate experienced significant capital growth and remains home to some of the city’s most expensive suburbs.
“House prices in Hawthorn rose 26.1 per cent in the year to March 31 to a median price of $2,035,000,” said Mr Bird. “Kew’s house prices rose 13.6 per cent over the same period to a median of $2,325,000. Kew East recorded annual house price growth of 23.3 per cent and a median of $1,690,000.
“Camberwell experienced 17.6 per cent annual price growth to a median house price of $1,890,000. House prices in Canterbury increased 23.1 per cent in the year to March 31 to a median of $2,600,000.”
Property Consultant Brooke Warwick, from Fletchers Real Estate, called housing prices one of the main issues in the Kooyong electorate.
It “potentially” influences the way people vote there, she said.
With the electorate’s average age 41 years, according to the 2011 Census, aged care and health are also set to become future concerns for Kooyong.
Tull Roseby, CEO of privately-run elderly care organisation Absolute Care and Health, said, “Kooyong provides a large amount of our customer base because it’s such an affluent area.”
But Margaret Harrison, director of Hawthorn-based Signpost Aged Care Services, warned that the desire to leave a financial legacy often resulted in the elderly sitting in freezing cold houses because they do not want to lose the pension.
“It’s almost as sacred as the Australian dream to own a home,” she says.
As well as being a busy education hub, Kooyong is also a hub for small businesses, with more than 20,000 established in the area.
“There are a lot of really good private schools around here, and the university,” said Gordon Lawrence of Lawrencia Cycles, of the area’s success. “Freeways run either side of (Kooyong), and a railway through the centre of it.”
Josh Neilson, of Glenferrie Gourmet Meats, said Kooyong’s “combination of the university, and number of families in the area” had also contributed to the success of local businesses.
But there is another side to this affluent, business-friendly electorate.
Hawthorn Headspace manager Kevin Shanks said that finishing school in an area “with such high unemployment” has left many young people in Kooyong with high levels of anxiety and stress.
“Fear of failure” is a significant contributor towards the poor mental state of young people in Kooyong, perhaps stemming from the high expectations of its many private schools, he said.
And an area the electorate needs to put more focus on is support for asylum seekers and refugees, according to one local supporter.
Helen Darrer, of The Catholic Parish Of Our Lady Of Good Counsel And All Hallows’ asylum seeker support group, said, “I’m not sure if the residents fully understand the difficulties asylum seekers and refugees face.”
In the 2013 election Greens candidate Helen McLeod, who is standing again this time, won more than 16% of the vote, nearly double the party’s national average. But she attributes the success to a protest vote, rather than strong support within the electorate for the Greens policy on asylum seekers.