Season’s greetings 2013

Joy 2013

Wishing you and your communities a relaxing festive season and a joyful new year!

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Reconciliation: the time is now

RWA photo

Last Tuesday evening, in the glorious surrounds of Mooro Katta or Kaarta Gar-up (two of the many Noongar names for Mount Eliza, the highest point of Kings Park) a special event took place.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Western Australians, representing a wide range of sectors, came together to celebrate the exciting reconciliation achievements and initiatives that are happening in WA at the moment.

One of these initiatives – the launch of Reconciliation WA through generous support from Lotterywest for 3 years – was particularly exciting for me, as a member of the advisory group that provided input to the application for funding.

Here’s some background on Reconciliation WA provided by  WACOSS:

“The Reconciliation space has increased substantially in Western Australia over the past 5 years. WA has approximately 90 organisations with Reconciliation Action Plans amid a list of 400 RAP Organisations nationally, endorsed by Reconciliation Australia. Reconciliation WA began as an idea over two years ago and recently established as a dedicated state based organisation funded for three years by Lotterywest and housed at the West Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS).

Reconciliation WA will function as a Secretariat and make a significant contribution to closing the gap in relation to Aboriginal health, education and employment outcomes in WA. The Secretariat will work together with the WA Community and Organisations to promote and encourage reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Over the three years, its key elements are the development of trust, understanding,respect and opportunities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and the active involvement of government, business and community organisations in reconciliation activities.

We strive to create a West Australian community that has a broad understanding and acknowledgement of a whole range of issues, not just about Aboriginal culture but also around history post colonisation. Our vision is for a state where the special place,culture, rights and contribution of Aboriginal peoples are valued and respected.”

Other initiatives celebrated at the event were the first anniversary and successes of the Yokai Employment Forum and the RECOGNISE campaign and its journey to the South of WA.

Congratulations and a huge thank you to the people who have been driving and championing these important initiatives!

Images L-R:
1. Phillip Walley-Stack and dancers giving a wonderful Welcome to Country and performance.
2. Co-Chairs of the Board of Reconciliation WA – Mary Cowley and Alan Carter – speaking about its launch.
3. Fred Chaney delivering an inspiring speech, with dynamic MC for the evening Gningala Yarran-Mark (from SKM) and RWA Executive Officer James Back looking on. 
4. Kimberley Benjamin, RECOGNISE Youth Ambassador, showing us that the future is in good hands.

New grant funding for WA community gardens

I want to share some exciting news!

Today the WA Government announced a new Community Gardens Grants Program. $400,000 is available over four years to assist with the establishment or development of community gardens in WA.

I took a welcome break from my office this afternoon to join Local Government and Community Services Minister Tony Simpson, the Mayor and CEO from the City of Stirling, Department of Local Government and Communities staff, and local community gardeners at the always charming Joondanna Community Garden for the official announcement.

In addition to funding for individual gardens, grants can also go towards activities or initiatives that build the capacity of the WA community garden sector (think networking events, bus tours, training, and so on – like the support provided during the Growing Communities WA project).

Full details and application forms can be found on the Department of Local Government and Communities’ website. The closing date for applications for the 2014 round of funding is 5pm Thursday 27 February 2014.

Social Fabric provides specialist advice and support services to new and established community gardens and their partners. If you’d like to know more check out the Community Gardens page or get in touch with me.

CF Funding launch

Today’s launch event for the new grants program, at Joondanna Community Garden

How magic happens in public spaces

It’s a sunny winter’s day back in July of this year. I’m on a family road trip through Victoria and we’ve stopped at a roadside rest area off the Princes Highway between Colac and Melbourne. My one year old niece needs a feed, so my partner and I get out of the ‘people mover’ to stretch our legs while we wait.

There’s a picnic table, a toilet block, and a big wide empty expanse of bitumen carpark. Our gang are the only one’s here. We wander a little, we explore, and then I ask my partner to dance.

We waltz in the carpark. We practice some swing dancing turns on the bitumen. We get the timing wrong. We laugh. We try a few lifts. We’re at a rest area, in the middle of no place much, and yet there’s magic in the air…

Then my sister calls out that they’re ready to go and we’re on the road again.

As we continue on our journey, I reflect on how magic happens in public spaces*. How a roadside rest stop becomes a stage set for dancing and a place where lasting memories are made.

Three ingredients I noticed were present in this instance:

1. Quality design details 

Whoever is in charge of roadside amenities on this patch of highway in Victoria is doing a good job. The picnic table and toilet block were made of interesting and quality materials and were attractive and inviting (no photos to share unfortunately!). Whilst I’d be the first person to tell you that design is definitely not the ‘be all and end all’ of making places great, I agree with Project for Public Spaces when they say: “good details tantalise – they send a signal that someone took the time and energy to design amenities that welcome, intrigue, or help”. Beauty inspires beautiful acts.

2. Imaginative connections

In October 2012 I visited the thought-provoking Postcards for Perth exhibition by Robyn Creagh, PhD Candidate and Associate Lecturer in the School of Built Environment at Curtin University. Robyn’s work explored how personal memories of place shape our urban experience. She invited us to notice how the imaginative connections we make between places we’ve experienced in the past and those we’re enjoying today can actually shape our experience of our current places.

At the roadside rest area I found my imagination transporting me back to another time and place. The physical qualities of the location and the experience of being on a roadtrip reminded me of another roadside stop I made on a trip across the Nullabor with friends in my early 20s. That time my friends and I stopped by the side of the road and held a brief but fun ‘Nullabor Disco’ – filming our disco dancing moves to the soundtrack of Disco Inferno. The imaginative connection I made with that past experience of a ‘similar’ place helped to get my feet dancing again over 10 years later!

3. A playful attitude to public space

We can choose how we engage with and make use of our public spaces.

PPS talk about “the tendency of people (particularly in the developed world) to see regulations where they don’t exist. After decades of society turning its back on public life in favor of the private realm of home, office, and car, a lot of people now feel that they need permission to use public spaces the way they’d like to“. One of my roles as a place maker is to help people to ‘see’ public spaces differently, to expand their ideas about what they can use public spaces for and what the potential of our shared spaces can be. It’s my job to disrupt and inspire.

The playful attitude I brought with me into the space of the roadside rest area helped me to see an empty car park as a dance floor.

Principle 9 for Making a Great Place - Make It Enchanting

Principle 9 for Making a Great Place – Make It Enchanting

Which public places have you experienced moments of (perhaps unexpected) magic in?
What ingredients do you think are important for making magic in public places?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Magic‘ seems to me to be the best word to sum up those moments when our senses are heightened, we feel very alive, connected and open, and experience a sense of wonder in the midst of the everyday.

Place making conference coming to Mandurah

ICTC conference, Mandurah, place making

The popular International Cities, Town Centres & Communities Conference run by the ICTC Society is coming to Mandurah in 2013!

With the theme of ‘Dynamic Cities – Vibrant, Liveable and Innovative’ – the conference program includes keynote speakers, workshops and field trips covering topics like place making, city activation, community engagement, creating liveable neighbourhoods, sustainability and urban environments, and economic development (to name a few!).

I’m excited to be presenting a workshop at the conference on behalf of Social Fabric that will explore how to create distinctive and authentic local places. The workshop aims to provide an opportunity for co-learning on this topic, so I’d love you to come along and share your ideas and experience too!

The conference runs from 16 – 18 October 2013. Check out the full ICTC2013registrationbrochure.

P.S. ICTC Society members pay a reduced rate for registration. Good news is it’s free to become a member so make sure you take advantage of the cheaper registration rate.

P.P.S. For details of other upcoming presentations and workshops see this page.

Create the places you like

Recently I’ve been dipping into Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. A few of his ideas have really resonated with me, one of them is his tip to forget the old cliché about writing ‘what you know’ and instead ‘write what you like’. He says:

austin kleon

Reading this made me think of the street picnic-themed chill out space that I curated for Creative Maylands as part of the Maylands Street Festival a couple of weeks ago. The idea for the space – to offer festival goers a welcoming and unique place to relax, converse and connect – came from my own experience of wandering around street festivals searching in vain for a comfy place with some shade, seating, and a bit of character, to put my feet up for a while and soak up the festival vibe.

At its essence, the street picnic place that the team of volunteers and I created was the place we wanted to have at our local festival, the place we wanted to hang out in on the day. And it was a hit! Our ‘likes’ were the spark for the idea and then we applied place making knowhow to really make the place a success.

We transformed this empty car park…

IMG_2885

… into a lively, people-friendly place for everyone to enjoy. Here’s some of the place making strategies we used to do it:

1. Mix it up

Uses and activities are the basic building blocks of a great place. Basically, the more things there are to do in a place, the more people will use it. We layered as many uses and activities onto the space as possible in order to appeal to different people. These included: old skool games (quoits, carpet bowls, hopscotch and marbles); historical photos from around Maylands; a photo booth; a community engagement activity to map Maylands’ special places; flyers promoting local creative and cultural activities; and a dog bowl for thirsty pooches.

quoits

carpet bowls

Throughout the festival, people were drawn into the space by all of these things. If we hadn’t offered such a mix of activities and uses we definitely wouldn’t have had as many people enjoying the space.

2. Break it up

We were lucky enough to have quite a large space to work with so we took the opportunity to create a number of smaller ‘rooms’ or areas that offered different focal points and made it comfortable for a number of groups of people to hang out in the space at the same time. We also designed in movement spaces to allow people to circulate through the space easily (without having to step over picnic rugs, walk through the bowls game, etc).

3. Make it comfortable

In public spaces, it’s people that attract people so we wanted people to stay awhile in our space. The best way to do this, not surprisingly, is to give them somewhere to sit. We offered people a range of different options for seating – from picnic rugs to park benches to comfy chairs – and because they were all moveable people could tailor the space to suit their needs. Shade is a godsend during spring street festivals in Perth, so we made sure around 50% of our space was in shade during the day.

street picnic

4. Make it readable

Good places are highly accessible. This includes having good visibility into the place and making sure it’s easy for people to ‘read’ the space and work out reasonably quickly what it’s used for and who’s welcome. We made sure we had a clear invitation to ‘make yourself at home’ at the front of the street picnic space to let people know what it was about and that it was available to everyone. We also had other signage through the space to highlight different activities.

IMG_2894

5. Keep it real

In everything that Creative Maylands does, we want to celebrate and build on the ‘place essence’ of Maylands, the special qualities of our neighbourhood. Jon Hawkes* says it well when he suggests that cultural development should “concentrate on ensuring that the cultural manifestations in a community have a direct relationship with the culture of that community [his italics]”. We chose a vintage style for our street picnic space because it links to both new and old elements of our suburb – the growing number of vintage-inspired shops and cafes on the popular Whatley Crescent strip and the suburb’s rich heritage as represented by the historical photographs that we sourced from Maylands Historical and Peninsula Association for inclusion in the space.

IMG_2901

* Jon Hawkes (2001). The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s essential role in public planning. Common Ground Publishing in association with the Cultural Development Network, Victoria. p 15.

The people in your neighbourhood

They’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet
Each daaaayyyy

Sometimes the simple act of meeting and chatting with a now-no-longer-stranger whilst walking in my local neighbourhood brings a tear to my eye. This morning was one of those times. Out walking to get my brain into gear at the end of a very full week, I met Nanette. An older lady also out walking who challenged me to race her up the hill. We got chatting. Nanette loves walking. She hasn’t been doing it for long but now that she’s started she says she’ll keep at it forever. I recognised her face from behind the counter at my local op shop. She hasn’t been working there since May she says, and will need to look for a new job soon as her sick leave is coming to an end. ‘They want us to work til we’re 80 these days!’ She told me that her name Nanette is a derivative of my name, Anne. They both mean ‘beautiful grace’. We agreed that next time we meet we’ll have that race.

There is something I find glorious about making a real and human connection with the people who are part of my local neighbourhood. Perhaps you find this too?

It reminded me of this Sesame Street song from my childhood: The People in Your Neighbourhood Song