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House dressing in Port Melbourne

The YES posters are coming down. Halloween decorations are going up. The year turns.

Decorating houses has a long history in Port, though the increasing popularity of Halloween is a phenomenon of recent years.

‘The good people of Sandridge’ put on quite a display for the arrival of Victoria’s new Governor, Sir Charles Hotham in 1854.

‘Streamers and banners were stretched across the street combined with emblematic devices and appropriate mottoes; whilst every window and housefront exhibited either a flag or some decoration executed in the wild flowers and evergreens of Victoria.’ 1

The Port Melbourne Business Association has tapped into the Port Melbourne zeitgeist2 by putting on an event combining dogs and Halloween – HOWL-O-WEEN. The event, now in its seventh year, builds on its success from year to year. Funds raised from registrations are donated to Guide Dogs Victoria.

Paws parade across Bay St in Port Melbourne (2022) image courtesy of the Port Melbourne Business Association

According to City of Port Phillip figures, 7,901 dogs were registered in 202/21. The figures are not broken down by postcode. Observation suggests that many more dogs are owned than are registered.

Port Melbourne people appear to have enjoyed the company of dogs from early in the life of the Borough. The Port Melbourne Historical Society holds several registers of dogs from the 1890s. Yes, even then, registration and a fee were required. Breeds recorded in the register include poodles and spaniels and the enduringly popular retriever.

Dog register 1892 courtesy of the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society

The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gabrielle Williams, has warned of the hazards that may lurk in Halloween products such as button batteries and flammable costumes.

Polyester spiderwebs also pose a risk to birds and bats. Sean Dooley, Public Affairs Manger of Birdlife Australia, warns that birds can get caught in the webs. Halloween coincides with breeding season in south eastern Australia and newly fledged chicks are more likely to get caught.

Birds may use the synthetic material in constructing their nests as this intricately woven nest, blown out of a tree by the wind, shows.

There are many ways to celebrate Halloween that do not involve using single use materials that may cause harm.

1 Tasmanian Colonist (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1851 – 1855), Monday 3 July 1854, page 3 from Trove

2 zeitgeist the spirit or essence of a particular time (preferred definition in this context from

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