Most people consider themselves lucky when they gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows of Eureka Skydeck on a cloudless day. But if they have witnessed electric storms rolling over the bay like Emma Cullen has, then they just might feel shortchanged by the clear skies.
Emma has been with the Skydeck for nine years now and is nowhere close to taking her job or the incredible view for granted. Every day is another chance to revel in the city's grit and glory from her perch above the skyline, and watch Melburnians and tourists do the same.
Having not grown up in Melbourne, I didn’t realise how unfamiliar I was with the city. I had no concept of my bearings. So for me it was great to see just how close the sporting precinct and St Kilda are to the city. Where the West Gate leads out and where all the arterials go. We’re substantially taller than everything else around us so we really have that 360-degree view. It won’t be this way forever but for now, it’s great that you can see as far as 75km in every direction on a clear day. The sheer vastness of that shocked me.
Just when the sun’s gone down. That’s a very special time. It’s when all the lights in the city start to come on. So that 15 to 20 minute window when the end of a sunset goes into night is really spectacular. Another beautiful time is sunrise. Whenever I see that it reminds me how lucky we are and how beautiful the city is and that it was worth getting up at 4am to be here.
When I returned from London, I got a job at the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, the world’s first travelling tram restaurant. I worked for a year, finished my degree and told my boss that I was off to my next challenge. And he said, oh we’re building a little something on Southbank that you might be interested in. I’ve been here nine years now.
I moved here from regional Victoria when I was 18, so just over ten years ago. I had two options for university. It was either Melbourne or Wodonga. I’m very glad I chose Melbourne. I lived in Monee Ponds before but I’m now living out towards the airport. It takes me between 30 minutes and an hour to get to work. It’s not too bad. Gives me a bit of time to myself in the car. I enjoy it.
I knew I wanted to travel and be involved in the tourism industry. I wanted to study tourism in Melbourne, and as part of my degree, I spent a year abroad in London. A game we used to play when we lived overseas was, ‘Yea, but is it better than Melbourne? Some places came close but none ever surpassed it. In terms of places to live, we were happy to come home to Melbourne.
Definitely. The World’s Most Liveable City title has propelled the comparisons and has made Melbourne a benchmark. Last year I spent a couple of weeks in Vienna which always rates second and Melbourne is…I think the right thing to say from a cultural point of view is that Vienna is beautiful and it’s better than Melbourne. But for me, it’s Melbourne all the way!
I have a real affinity to Southbank. Catching up with friends and having dinner is always there. And I enjoy the Yarra. I think the water is really a key part of leisure and tourism. I think the same about Moonee Ponds too. The food, the Maribyrnong River, there’s a really nice community there. I also really like going over to St. Kilda or Chapel Street, which are really lively precincts.
With the rise of the China market we’re seeing a lot more Chinese coming in and not just in large groups but also as families and couples. We’re also seeing a rise in tourists from India and Southeast Asia, which is in line with the new markets entering Melbourne. We still see locals who come in for a drink before having dinner in Southbank. During the school holidays, there are lots of families. At night, the couples come in for the beautiful sunsets and romantic views.
The other thing that has really picked up is marriage proposals. We have about five proposals taking place here every month. We know straightaway when a gentleman calls and starts off with, uh can I book The Edge? And normally it’s a no because we always have people wanting to go on The Edge so we don’t hold spaces. And then they ask, well what if I wanted to have just the two of us? We ask if it’s for something special and they say, yes I’m going to propose.
Oh yes, especially with the marriage proposals. People want to do all sorts of things. One gentleman wanted to be out in The Edge at the exact moment that a sky sign writer wrote a message in the sky. For all the expense he would have to go through, we just couldn’t guarantee he would be out there at that exact time. It’s usually around proposals because people have really elaborate ideas and we are restricted to operational considerations.
There was a gentleman who wanted to propose in an animal suit and have a flash mob perform an elaborate dance routine. And we did it! It was very funny. Then there was another gentleman who used to work in the Twin Towers in New York and who had gotten out of the second tower when it was hit. He wanted to see if he could face his fear. It was a very emotional and trying experience but he did a whole lap around the Skydeck and was so happy. That really stayed with me.
I hear a lot of people say things like, everything is so small or look at the trams or I can see my house! People are connecting with what they can see whether it’s the Sprit of Tasmania, the activities on the Yarra or the different weather conditions. A thunderstorm might be coming in which is fantastic to see. But mostly you hear people trying to pinpoint what they know or trying to find their house.
If the reverse were true, I really wish they wouldn’t notice that many buildings in our city are from the 70s. When you look out the window you get a real sense of that. The buildings look a little dated. But there are also many modern buildings that fit in between. So I hope they see a new, healthy and vibrant city, and one that values green space.
The things that impact our liveability. When you see many small towers packed next to each other then we start resembling one of those overcrowded cities. It’s important to provide living spaces but to also retain the essence of what Melbourne really is and the charm that you don’t get with compact high-rise living.
It would be good to see more usage of the Yarra. And also changes around Southbank for walking and cycling trails. It’s a very heavy cycling area. You have tourists meandering along and having a good time and you also have all these people on bikes who are rushing to get home.
Favourite Aussie phrase: “She’ll be right.”
Favourite view: Federation Square and the Botanical Gardens because there’s a lot going on there.
Favourite café: BearBrass on Southbank.
Favourite pub or wine bar: PJ O’Briens Irish Pub on Southbank.
Inside Melbourne should interview: Chris Davies from Victorian Ropes Access.