It's New Year's resolution time. We - the mayors of Frankston for the past five years - are asking Melbourne to add another resolution to its list: stop bagging Frankston.
Generally multicultural Melburnians abhor discrimination. The overwhelming majority won't tolerate put-downs based on where people were born, such as calling Greeks and Italians ''wogs'', or Asians ''slant-eyes''. Why then is it acceptable to call Frankston people ''Bogans''?
The answer is: it's not.
Award-winning Frankston beach. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Firstly, it's not true. Frankston is a microcosm of Melbourne, displaying income levels from very poor to very rich. Antisocial behaviour on Frankston streets is no better or worse than anywhere else. Young families abound, working hard to realise the best possible futures. They're coming to Frankston to secure our affordable housing and family-friendly infrastructure.
When they arrive they discover what many Melburnians refuse to see: a well-connected community that has a heart far bigger than most Melbourne suburbs.
Referring to Frankston as ''Frangers'', ''Boganville'' and ''Frankenstone'' is lazy, discriminatory and bigoted. It may make Melbourne laugh, but it is deeply offensive to the 130,000 people who live there. Significantly, it has unintended consequences that reach far past the slur itself. It embarrasses our young people and strips away their pride in who they are and where they live. It discourages investors and new employers, which undermines job and income potential for our region. It leaves an impression that somehow it's Frankston people who are to blame for the problems facing our area, rather than the real culprit: a persistent lack of constructive state government support.
Frankston train station. Photo: Pat Scala
Then there's the more minor irritation of being introduced to complete strangers (some of whom have never visited Frankston) who proclaim: ''Why do you live there!?'' At least that response provides some opportunity for Frankston people to correct the record.
Frankston boasts award-winning beaches and expansive green spaces in which to live and play. With no car congestion or pollution, a worker can be swimming or walking in a nature reserve within 10 minutes of leaving her or his office. Historically a haven for bohemian artists, Frankston now produces abundant cultural assets at its Arts Centre and McClelland Gallery (an internationally renowned sculpture park).
Certainly a few places let Frankston down. The Frankston train station is one such place. Indeed, Frankston's poor image is often visually illustrated by its station. Frankston's city centre takes a far greater share of drug pharmacotherapy outlets than surrounding regions to help people from south-east Melbourne withdraw from hard drugs. This has led to an over-concentration of drug-related services around the station. Their clients tend to stand out in an otherwise drab colourless environment. Residents report that they feel less safe in that area as a result.
Bayside shopping centre in Frankston. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
This can be solved by better planning - more colour, more businesses, more offices would mean more foot traffic, making the area feel more vibrant, and giving people more confidence to come into the area. However, despite repeated requests from our community over the past three decades, successive state governments and parliamentarians have failed to properly develop the station, preferring instead the far cheaper option of posters and paint to cover over the underlying problems. It is a short-sighted approach that never works.
That said, the bad publicity attributed to Frankston from the train line is unfair. There are 26 stations on the Frankston train line before it arrives in Melbourne. Only three are in the Frankston municipality (Frankston; Kananook and Seaford stations). Yet Frankston has been blamed for well-publicised incidents of deplorable behaviour on the Frankston line even though these events took place tens of miles from Frankston.
The image of Frankston has also been affected by its association with state parliamentarian Geoff Shaw. Media reports across Victoria over the past two years have accused Shaw of antisocial activities on a grand scale. We make no comment about this - the people of Frankston will no doubt express their views at the ballot box later this year. However, at a minimum, these reports have continually linked the name of Frankston with reprehensible conduct, including bullying, violence and the misuse of public funds - conduct that repels the overwhelming majority of Frankston people.
By contrast, Frankston people who have been loved and respected across Victoria are not acknowledged as coming from Frankston. Recent examples include Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. Upon her death, she was widely reported to have lived in Langwarrin or on the Mornington Peninsula - never the more accurate municipality of Frankston.
And who would have known that microbiologist Ruth Bishop - who two months ago was awarded the prestigious Florey Medal for work that has already saved the lives of tens of thousands of children worldwide - was educated at Frankston High School where her father was the principal.
Melbourne is a fantastic city. It needs no whipping boy. So stop putting us down and come see for yourself what a magnificent place Frankston is.
Christine Richards is a former mayor of Frankston. This article was written in conjunction with four other former mayors of Frankston: Colin Hampton, Kristopher Bolam, Brian Cunial and Sandra Mayer.