Category Archives: Community Hubs

Snapshots From the Caring for Country Reconciliation Event

Snapshots from the recent Caring for Country Community Planting Event held as part of the Place of Reconciliation project at Banks Reserve / Warndoolier. You can find this special part of the world on Joel Terrace in East Perth.

The event was hosted by the City of Vincent, with support from the Vincent Reconciliation Group and participation by the Claise Brook Catchment Group.

It was a very chilly morning, but luckily a very heart warming event!

Elders Doolann-Leisha and Walter Eatts preparing to deliver the Welcome to Country, accompanied by Samuel Pilot-Kickett on the didgeridoo

Elders Doolann-Leisha and Walter Eatts preparing to deliver the Welcome to Country, accompanied by Samuel Pilot-Kickett on the didgeridoo

Community members planting out the banks of Walter's Brook

Community members planting out the banks of Walter’s Brook

Community members helping with the final stages of planting

Community members helping with the final stages of planting

Even our youngest community members got involved!

Even our youngest community members got involved!

Enjoying the day

Enjoying the day



A father’s day visit to Northbridge

My dad is an avid ‘people watcher’. He likes to get out amongst it and soak up the ‘goings on’ of his community. It was only recently that I made the connection between this interest of his and my own interest in helping to create and sustain lively community places through place making. I like getting out amongst it too and helping there to be more in Perth to get out amongst! Could it be that place making is in the genes?

So for father’s day this year I decided to pass over the standard presents of socks, chocolates and wine; wanting instead to share with my dad some time out in our local community, exploring together some recent place making developments and (hopefully) getting a bit of a dose of cultural vitality. I chose Northbridge for our Sunday afternoon place making adventure. It was to be a bit of test really: would there be enough going on to keep us amused on a father-daughter date?

Well, we wondered down William Street through Chinatown, ran our eye over the construction of the State Theatre building, peeked in the window of The Bird bar and sampled a little rocket and lettuce from the Perth Cultural Centre’s Urban Orchard. My dad passed on the options of checking out an exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA, the ‘A Day in Pompeii’ exhibition at the WA Museum, browsing in the State Library bookshop or attending a contemporary theatre performance at PICA that were all on offer. He also wasn’t quite game for a traditional chinese massage from my favourite masseuse on James Street. Instead we wandered down to the Northbridge Piazza to soak up the dying moments of a footy final showing there on the big screen. (Did you know you there’s a daily TV guide to what’s screening that you can check online? You can also find Northbridge Piazza on facebook.)

Northbridge Piazza, place making

Watching the footy at Northbridge Piazza

Northbridge Piazza, place making

A relaxed Sunday feel at the Piazza

From a place making perspective, there were some positives to be seen at the Piazza. Community places thrive on having activities and uses to pull people in. It’s evident that the footy final screening had attracted a range people to the space – groups of friends, couples, families, people who’d come prepared for the event and others who’d obviously just ‘stumbled on the fun’. The cafe is also working as a drawcard for people. Now, imagine if there were another 5 activities on offer in the space – an interesting artwork that kids could play on, some board games that you could rent from the cafe, free wireless internet, a roving street performer, or a long table lunch served up by Valentino’s Restaurant across the road perhaps?  Additional activities and uses would help to attract more people to stop by and stay awhile at the Piazza and these people in turn would attract others who just want to soak up the vibe of a buzzing place. I’m hopeful that we’ll see more and more activities and uses layered onto this space in the coming months.

Northbridge Piazza, place making

Another father-daughter date perhaps?

And so the final verdict on our father’s day visit to Northbridge? Whilst my dad and I certainly weren’t overwhelmed by the life and activity on the streets, I was pleased to find there were a variety of activities on offer and enough to keep us happy on our sunny Sunday afternoon sojourn. Things are getting better in Northbridge – why don’t you explore for yourself sometime soon and write a comment letting me know your thoughts on current place making developments in the area.

A taste of community hubs on WA’s south coast

Whenever I travel (whether to the next city/town or far away), I enjoy discovering, exploring and connecting into local places that are vibrant hubs for creative community activity. On a recent break to Denmark and Albany on the south coast of WA I found three such places:

Centre for Sustainable Living (CSL), Denmark

I arrived at the centre and was greeted by the enticing smell of an Indian feast being cooked up in the centre’s kitchen, in preparation for a fundraising dinner being hosted their that night. No surprises I came back that evening to support the cause!

The centre is managed by Green Skills and a lot of great stuff happens there. I was visiting specifically to check out the community garden that’s been started (I think) in the last 6 months. A feature of the garden is a bush foods area where plants that will provide food during each of the six Nyungar seasons are being grown. I was struck by the ephemeral artwork that has been created as a centrepiece for this garden.

Ephemeral artwork at CSL community garden

Ephemeral artwork made using natural materials

It’s not a new idea I know, but I’m currently feeling really excited about how community artwork (including ephemeral, impermanent works and performance) can help bring life to public places and I’m finding ways to incorporate more of this sort of process into my work with communities and places. Check out these lovely urban nests inhabiting the scaffolding of a building being renovated in Madrid for example.

A highlight of the CSL is a special place called the Sanctuary. Look at it – don’t you just want to spend time there!

The Sanctuary, Denmark

The Sanctuary, Denmark


Inside the Sanctuary

I love the garden on the roof and, again, the artwork interwoven into the place that imbues it with story, life and colour.

The Tip Shop, Denmark

What’s a trip to Denmark without a visit to the Tip Shop I say? Some other time I’ll have to tell you about why I’m excited about waste and creative reuse. On this visit though, the thing that stayed with me most was being reminded of the diversity of types of places in our local communities that can become hubs where people can meet, connect and make interesting things happen. And how the principles of place making can be used to enhance such very different places – main streets, community gardens, small bars, public parks and tip shops!

At this one in Denmark, they’re working to expand the range of activities that happen there – one of the key strategies for attracting more people to visit and stay awhile. There’s a children’s sand pit play area, an education and training venue, the Tiporium Teahouse Sunday Session events, ‘junk’ musical instruments to play with, a casual tip shop ‘cafe’ and outdoor eating area is being set up and, of course, plenty of shopping for reuse goods and bits and pieces. Having this diversity of activity and uses bodes well for the future of this developing community hub.

Bikes at Denmark Tip Shop

Need a bike?

Rainbow Coast Neighbourhood Centre Community Garden, Albany

It was a rainy afternoon when I visited the Rainbow Coast Neighbourhood Centre Community Garden. Arriving on foot, I actually walked past the garden because it’s set back from the road, but I was lucky enough to score a lift back to the right spot by a friendly staff member of the youth centre at the other end of the street (otherwise I would have been soaked!).

Only around a year old, the garden already has a lovely feel. Those involved in developing it have paid attention not only to getting the veges growing but also to creating a vibrant and interesting community place (again the contribution community artwork can make to building a sense of place is evident). The garden is one of the few in WA that I’ve heard have managed to grow enough surplus produce to warrant selling some off for fundraising (what a difference climate can make).

Communal garden bed enlivened with simple mosaic crazy paving

The old wheelbarrow adds interest to the garden and extra growing space

community artwork

Decorated bicycle tyres add colour to the fence

At the garden I met Mitch, who’s currently supervising Green Corp participants in the building of a large circular garden bed cut into quarters by pathways. One quarter will have a children’s sand pit and another a covered socialising area. Mitch mentioned that the following week he was booked to deliver his first public talk on what we need to do about climate change. It reminded me of how being involved in places like community gardens leads people to feel more inspired, empowered and interested in being active citizens. This is one of the reasons hubs like these are so important and special.

I’d love to hear about community hubs in your local area and why they work; how about posting a comment?

In the heart of the city, a great new community space is opening soon…

… and you’re invited to have a say about how it will be used.

You might have noticed that the Queens Building property on the corner of Murray and William Streets in the city has been redeveloped.

Queens Building, cnr Murray and William Streets, Perth

Queens Building, cnr Murray and William Streets, Perth

The building owners, the Uniting Church in the City (UCIC), are making a large indoor space on the first floor of the building and a ground floor open-air area available for community use. It features a large event or exhibition space, with commercial kitchen, smaller spaces and interesting heritage fixtures. There is the potential for this space to become a vibrant community hub in the heart of the city; perhaps a space for people to hang out with friends, eat lunch, rehearse or perform, show their artwork, be entertained, hold meetings, host events or something else.

To ensure this potential is realised, the UCIC is inviting people who live, work, play and study in the city to join in on a tour of the space and a conversation on how it will be used.

Tour & workshop: 1.30 – 4.30pm Saturday 21 February 2009

Venue: Level 1, Queens Building, cnr Murray and William Streets, Perth (enter via 97 William Street)

I’m excited to be working with the UCIC on this place making project in the city centre and will be facilitating the workshop on the 21st. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to me by 13th February via anne (at)

Bringing the beat back into Perth’s cultural heart

If you’ve spent any time in the Perth Cultural Centre recently, you’ll know that the public open space in this key cultural precinct is desperately underutilised. For a site that includes many of Perth’s most significant cultural institutions the number of people who choose to spend time in the space daily is depressingly low.

The Cultural Centre should be Perth’s cultural heart. It should be one of the city’s major destinations. It should be the place you bring the family on weekends because there’s always something going on. It should be one of the Perth community’s ‘cultural watering holes’ – one of those significant places from which we can draw nourishment and ‘fill up’ on a sense of community vitality, connection and shared values.

As it is, many Perth people don’t even know that the Cultural Centre exists. The activities of its cultural institutions don’t reach out into the public space that links them and the only regular programmed activity is a small weekend market. Many of the spaces within the cultural precinct are consistently empty of people.

So what’s needed to breathe life into the Cultural Centre, and soon?

The good news is that there are simple steps that can be taken right now. We can look to successful places like Federation Square in Melbourne for clues. Many people experience the buzz of ‘Fed Square’ and assume that the secret to its success as one of the city’s major destinations of choice lie in its distinctive architecture and design. What they don’t see is that there’s a team of people who manage the public space and oversee a diverse program of activities and uses that provide the magnetic pull for people. And then these people attract more people.

The same can be done for the Perth Cultural Centre. When you look past the 1980s architecture, bland public artwork and street furniture that desperately needs an upgrade, you start to notice that within the centre’s public space are a number of diverse and interesting smaller areas. Like different rooms in a building, these spaces could be venues for a range of programmed events and activities designed to attract the whole of the Perth community to one of the city’s key public places.

How about morning Tai Chi on these steps once a week?

How about morning Tai Chi on these steps once a week?

A weekly book market could happen here on Saturday mornings

A weekly book market could happen here on Saturday mornings

Could this be an outdoor cinema?

Could this be an outdoor cinema?

The amphitheatre could be used for daily performances

The amphitheatre could be used for daily performances

There are some promising moves on this front, with Artrage Festival events, the Earth From Above exhibition and a laneway festival livening up the Cultural Centre through November to February. But more needs to happen to ensure this isn’t a summer festival season aberration. One of the keys to the Cultural Centre’s revitalisation is to create a permanent, funded team dedicated to managing, promoting and encouraging community use of its diverse outdoor spaces. Regular programmed activity, both daytime and nighttime, could be complemented by making the Cultural Centre Perth’s biggest free outdoor Wi-Fi hotspot, providing movable seating and tables for flexible daily use and encouraging food vendors and street performers.

Any improvements to the physical design of the Cultural Centre will take time. The formation of a Cultural Centre management team can and should start immediately. A broad place making process should be scheduled for early 2009 to engage the community and other key stakeholders in creating a shared vision for the Cultural Centre that will then provide the blueprint for its ongoing management.

Let’s bring the beat back into Perth’s cultural heart. Starting right now!