Lonely Planet Writer

Homeless lead new Melbourne walking tours

A new social enterprise in Melbourne, Australia is offering walking tours of the city with a difference.

Old coal store at Abbotsford convent, Melbourne.
Old coal store at Abbotsford convent, Melbourne. Image by Gavin Anderson / CC BY-SA 2.0

No Fixed Address tours are conducted by homeless men and women, and aim to show locals and travellers ‘the stories that aren’t seen on postcards, brochures or travel shows’. The enterprise launched with a walking tour of the inner-city neighbourhood of Abbotsford. The City by the Yarra Tour takes in Victoria Park, Dight Falls, Abbotsford Convent, CUB brewery and Victoria St.

The Abbotsford tour is conducted by Peter “Burnsy” Burns, who has been living rough since the economic crash in 2011, when he lost his building company. “I went from pretty much having what I would consider a fairly good lifestyle to pretty much living under a bridge,” Mr Burns told the ABC. Though he now lives in social housing, his dream is to own his own apartment.

Yarra river in Abbotsford.
Yarra river in Abbotsford. Image by Snipergirl / CC BY 2.0

Despite the difficulties he has faced in recent years, in conducting the tours Mr Burns believes he has found his ‘calling’. As well as helping travellers uncover the ‘real’ Melbourne, Mr Burns helps others who have fallen on hard times and need some help finding a new direction. Which is what No Fixed Address is all about.

Abbotsford convent.
Abbotsford convent. Image by Tourism Victoria / CC BY 2.0

The walking tours are the brain child of Jo Jenkins, an employment sector worker who hopes the tours give locals and visitors a richer insight into the city, as well as help tackle homelessness by giving those affected training, skills and experience as tour guides. “We’re delivering quality walking tours we believe are a little bit gritty, a little bit off the beaten track that are meant to be demonstrating what Melbourne is really about,” she explained. “I guess the added value to that is we’re giving disadvantaged people employment opportunities.”

The City by the Yarra tour runs every Saturday morning from 10am to 1pm and costs AU$35 per person. For more information, or to make a booking, visit here.