24 April 2023

Ngunnawal-inspired public art plan to be developed for Acton Waterfront Park

| Ian Bushnell
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Landscape plan for Acton Waterfront Park

The landscape plan for the 30,000-square-metre, crescent-shaped Acton Waterfront Park. Images: City Renewal Authority.

The proposed Acton Waterfront Park will have three Indigenous-inspired public art spaces as part of plans for it to tell the story of the Ngunnawal people and the significance of the land to them.

The ACT Government has awarded a contract to WA public arts consultancy FORM as the park’s First Nations curator.

It will develop a public art plan and curation strategy for the 30,000-square-metre, high-quality urban park, which will feature native species and a range of amenities such as barbecues, lawns and play areas, public event spaces and terraces.

The City Renewal Authority has always sought strong involvement from the traditional custodians in the development of the park, and last year conducted consultation and workshops with the Ngunnawal people, as well as the general public.

Map of themes and sites in a section of the park

Themes and sites for a section of the park. The retaining wall is marked in magenta and the water play and adventure space in blue.

CEO Malcolm Snow said last year that the creation of the lake had obliterated significant sites and caused great sorrow and loss to the Ngunnawal.

“We knew that to hear them talking about that as something that they genuinely feel some sorrow and pain about makes us reflect on how the materiality of the park, in terms of the way you might use limestone, and start to introduce motifs and art to help people interpret what was there long before the lake and certainly long before white settlement,” Mr Snow said.

“We think it would be entirely appropriate to pick up that First Nation theme and see how that would help shape the design, so I think that’s … a fantastic opportunity for our city and future generations.”

The art plan will include working with the Ngunnawal and First Nations people, the park designers, holding public and private competitions, and commissioning and selecting artists.

FORM will identify three public art opportunities, and examples given include:

  • 1.7m high retaining wall, which could include a timeline of the history of Ngunnawal using an image of the Molonglo River along its length.
  • A water play element with artworks and educational material engrained within the feature.
  • An arrival hub and welcome space where visitors can learn about Ngunnawal Country and which commemorates significant leaders.

The contract says the landscape team has identified these locations but FORM may propose other sites and opportunities.

It says the key theme that runs throughout the park design is Ngunnawal history, truth-telling and educational opportunities throughout.

The proposed entry to the park and Welcome to Country

The proposed entry to the park and Welcome to Country.

The different sections of the park will provide opportunities for telling the story of the Nugunnawal and their connections to country.

Consultation on the park design has been completed but the final design has yet to be released.

Construction of the park itself is due to begin this year subject to a Works Application approval and be completed by 2025.

Last year the boardwalk extension was completed after about 160,000 tonnes of gravel was laid to create a new lake edge on the alignment of the original 1915 Griffin plan and a three-hectare, crescent-shaped space, about the size of Glebe Park.

That gravel had to settle before the next phase of the project could commence.

The Waterfront will also eventually be home to a new residential and commercial precinct set 55 metres back from the lake behind the park.

FORM is being paid nearly $155,000 for the work.

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Capital Retro6:13 pm 28 Apr 23

“welcome to country accessible toilets….”?

Good grief! Does anyone ever read this stuff?

This government excels in finding new ways to waste ratepayers’ money.

Nick Stevens7:13 am 29 Apr 23

Feeds on its self.

It’s all becoming a bit tiresome, everything indigenous only, so over it

Wheres a good place to go to see our english herritage? Or have we dumped multiculturalism..

Seems everywhere is first nations. Including our telecommunications tower, where we will celebrate 50,000 year old network coverage?

The foreshore was designed around urban recreation and play with the lake.
Appears we’re just selling it off and errecting walls..

I think the point is it was well utilised by the Ngunnawal before it was dammed and flooded for that “english” recreation. Also dont forget this park development will release significant adjacent land for sale by the “english” government.

No sign of Grenfell Rudduck’s memorial seat! He was an important NCDC contributor to Canberra. What happened to the assurances given by NCA to preserve it?

It’s still there at the moment but a bit neglected. Hopefully they will preserve a memorial to him somewhere prominent in the new development.

The memorial is still there at the moment but a bit neglected. Hopefully they will preserve a memorial to him somewhere prominent in the new development.

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