Students Collaborate with Locals to Reimagine Clarence Valley Townships

Monash University

Public spaces in the Clarence Valley will be re-imagined as locals team up with students from Monash University to co-design and create new shared spaces that build community and connections. Through to November, a series of live design studios (workshops) are taking place in four Clarence Valley communities, with locals invited to come along to develop ideas for places and spaces that contribute to resilience building initiatives in their region. Clarence Valley's Fire to Flourish program is working with communities in Woombah, Glenreagh, Nymboida, and the Blicks area to create the spaces through a new project that will bring a mix of locally-led ideas to life with the help of architecture, urban design and planning students. A photo survey undertaken in each area is also helping the Fire to Flourish team better understand the things that everyone, of every age, sees as important in their space. The project is part of Monash University's Fire to Flourish program born from the 2019/20 Australian bushfire season to support community-led recovery, disaster resilience and preparedness. At recent gatherings with the Clarence Valley Fire to Flourish program, the communities revealed the priorities and concerns of local people including the lack of any public toilet facilities along Armidale Road stretching from Nymboida to Ebor, and a major park with no roofed buildings to protect against the elements. Conversations also revealed that communities wanted:

  • Public places - local halls, parks, public toilets, gathering places - that they can reach safely and easily
  • More from their public spaces: playgrounds, trees, flowers: somewhere beautiful they can enjoy
  • Their public spaces to be welcoming, inclusive, accessible and fun

The communities overwhelmingly expressed the need to develop stronger linkages with the local First Nations people and organisations and protect the environment. Leading up to August the team will be working with First Nations representatives and organisations, local government, emergency services and other stakeholders to advocate, plan and strategise; helping to bring communities projects and visions into fruition in the future. A First Nations community member who took part in the conversation said, "It is important for our Aboriginal communities to be involved in this project, to make sure our stories are heard, our special places protected and our culture woven through the development of everyone's spaces". Clarence Valley Fire to Flourish Community Lead, Roxanne Smith, said the communities will decide which projects and ideas receive available funds to bring them to life. "By building better shared spaces, we are building stronger connections and lines of communication between community members," Ms Smith said. "While fostering well-being and social connection, these spaces play a vital role in strengthening the way communities respond during times of disaster, along with their recovery and ability to prepare for future disasters. This project is designed to get diverse voices speaking about what they want for their communities' future. We will be coming together to solve shared problems and develop spaces for our future that work for everyone." Ms Smith said insights from the work would be scaled across Australia through a national learning network that will bring communities together to connect and learn from each other, and to amplify community voices in resilience policy and practice.

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