22 March 2024

As Ginninderry's houses and infrastructure are built, so is its community

| Dione David
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Children play with giant bubbles in a park

Creating opportunities for new neighbours to become a close-knit community is a critical component in the success of greenfield developments. Photo: Ginninderry.

If you build houses, people will come – but the social fabric that binds them into a community takes intention.

And though physical infrastructure often attracts the most focus when building a suburb from the ground up, a less tangible factor is just as critical to its success, according to Ginninderry’s Jessica Buckland.

“In any greenfield development, it’s important to try and develop that strong sense of community early on,” she says.

“It’s early days for Ginninderry. We don’t yet have 2000 residents and will eventually have 30,000. For new residents, it won’t be like moving into an established suburb where a lot of relationships exist and it’s just a case of joining an established social circle of neighbours.

“Instead, those relationships are being built now, and will play a big role in the liveability and lifestyle we want Ginninderry residents to enjoy in the coming decades.”

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That’s where Jessica comes in. As Ginninderry’s community development and liaison officer, she works with residents day to day to gather feedback on living in the suburb and what changes they’d like to see.

She also organises opportunities for neighbours to connect, and start laying the foundation for a strong community – events, programs and initiatives.

Regular programs often centre on Ginninderry’s community and information centre – The Link – and include Taekwondo and fitness classes run by an experienced personal trainer and resident, yoga on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings, and playgroups for families with young children.

On the first Sunday of every month, community members are invited to bring any household items that need mending to the pop-up “repair cafe” where a volunteer will help fix them.

“Often the volunteers are retired tradies or people with skills to share with their community, and they fix all sorts of things from toys to clothing and electronics,” Jessica says.

“It not only brings people together but promotes a circular economy.”

Philanthropic opportunities also foster a sense of ownership and an ethos of giving back.

On Fridays at lunchtime, charity Good Omen Goodeze Inc. runs a knitting and crochet group, providing participants with all the tools and materials to create comfort items that are donated to Canberra Health Services. These items are distributed to people receiving treatments at hospitals and walk-in medical centres.

And on Friday afternoons, a youth group meets for a free barbecue dinner and recreational sports at a local park.

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It’s increasingly common to have someone in Jessica’s role in creating greenfield developments. But she wasn’t hired from an event planning or community engagement background.

“I used to work for a building company, so I brought a lot of knowledge and empathy to the role when engaging with residents going through the building process,” she says.

“At the same time, I had spent much time volunteering with a local community hall and co-housing group. I guess I was seeking community connection in my personal life.

“This job has been the perfect blend of what I was doing professionally and what I was spending my spare personal time doing.”

Jessica Buckland from Ginninderry

Jessica Buckland says the neighbourly relationships forming in Ginninderry now will play a big role in the liveability and lifestyle of the suburb, as its population swells to 30,000. Photo: Ginninderry.

Jessica says the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that brought her to the job is pretty typical of Ginninderry, a company she says sets out to push the boundaries of traditional development from the beginning.

And while it’s early days, she reckons a burgeoning community is tangible evidence of the efficacy of this approach.

“It’s not yet one of those places where everyone knows everyone, but for a community with fewer than 2000 people, we already have a vibrant and engaged community and it’s very pleasing to regularly see people come together for a cause they care about,” she says.

“Community is an integral part of the model because we know that when people are connected to their neighbours and where they live, they feel a sense of belonging and ownership, and that community can thrive.

“We are looking forward to seeing residents put their hands up to host community events, get to know their neighbours and use the public spaces we’ve created … I am excited to see how this beautiful community grows.”

Visit Ginninderry for more information on events, including “Easter in the Park” at Paddys Park on Sunday 24 March. Hosted by Kippax Uniting Church, join your neighbours for an Easter egg hunt, crafts and activities for the kids, and a barbecue hosted by Rotary.


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