Western Downs student's big ideas shaping towns of future

6 June 2022

In collaboration with the University of Queensland and famed author Isobelle Carmody, Western Downs Regional Council has begun delivering a raft of world building creative writing workshops to high school students in Tara, Chinchilla, Jandowae and Dalby.

'My Future Town' is a creative workshop designed to introduce students to the craft of urban planning and policy through short story writing. Under the guidance of award-winning fantasy and sci-fi author Isobelle Carmody, participants create imaginary worlds as settings for their work inspired by what their communities may look like into the future.

Spokesperson for Community and Cultural Development Councillor Kaye Maguire said that while proactive and sustainable planning for the future is a key priority for Council, young people are the future inhabitants of the towns we plan right now and often they are not engaged in that planning – My Future Town hopes to change this.

"Council is interested in inspiring the next generation to look at their home town with an eye for the future and hopefully motivating them to become engaged residents or even future planners for the region," Cr Maguire said.

"By weaving planning concepts into these writing workshops, we're tapping into the imaginations of our youth while uncovering what they imagine the future of their communities will look like."

Workshop leader and acclaimed author, Isobelle Carmody believes that bringing together students with passions for writing, drawing, movie-making, politics, science and technology creates the perfect atmosphere to nurture creativity and bridge the divide between fiction and reality.

"This collaborative project between UQ and WDRC came about after our organisations worked together to present last year's Words Out West: Western Downs Readers & Writers Fest," she said.

"While these speculative worlds are based on fictitious future towns, we can translate their ideas into feedback for the real-world. For example, a story about teleportation or hover-boards might mean that youth want to see more transport options in the region."

Chinchilla student and workshop attendee Evie said the 'My Future Town' event was an opportunity to step out of her comfort zone and get creative.

"I loved the chance to write and create with Isobelle. I never thought I'd be good at it, but I pushed my own limits," she said,

"As a young person, we need to have a say into what goes into our towns. This workshop gave us the chance to do that."

As for her thoughts on what Chinchilla might look like in the future, Evie hopes the most important things will stay the same:

"I imagine we'll still have the friendly people, but more technology. I think we'll still have the Melon Fest too."

Workshops are taking place in each town's Council Chamber to give participants a real sense of the importance and responsibility for community building.

The work isn't entirely imaginary or intangible as the collated final works will be edited and published in a book to be launched later in 2022.

Attendees who complete the two-day workshop will be presented with a formal certificate to confirm that they collaborated in a research project with The University of Queensland.

Upcoming workshops will be delivered across the region in coming weeks including Jandowae on 8 and 9 June, and Dalby on 20 and 21 July. Students aged 14 to 18 can register with parental permission online at www.myfuturetown.com.au or by phoning 1300 COUNCIL (268 624).

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