The diverse experiences shaping our city

Suzanne Orr MLA 27 June 2018
Making Space Socialise presenters. L-R: Lelde Vitols, Dr Sunita Dhindsa, Louise Billman, Susan Cadman, William Scott, Milicia Muminovic, Suzanne Orr MLA. Photo: Supplied

Making Space Socialise presenters. L-R: Lelde Vitols, Dr Sunita Dhindsa, Louise Billman, Susan Cadman, William Scott, Milicia Muminovic, Suzanne Orr MLA. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra’s new community platform to shape future city design had its second event in April this year.

The Making Space Initiative is a forum that brings together those responsible for planning our city – members of the Legislative Assembly, public servants, built environment professionals and the community – and takes a cooperative approach to discussing how we plan our city.

At the April event we heard from six diverse speakers who delivered presentations under the theme of “socialise”.

Dr Sunita Dhindsa spoke about what cultural groups need to consider when planning social events for the community.

Susan Cadman spoke about playing and coaching footy for the Gungahlin Jets and what women need from sporting and community facilities.

We also heard from Louise Billman who introduced us to how early childhood educators view the city to create socialising opportunities for both the educators and the children under their care.

University student Will Scott shared his love of Canberra’s bike paths and how he uses them frequently to move around our city.

Lelde Vitols spoke about her appreciation of Canberra’s green spaces and nature reserves and the value they add to her local community.

We finally heard from Nick Dixon-Wilmshurst, an avid Canberra Bike Polo player, who wants appropriate spaces for people to play the sport.

Just like the first Making Space event in 2017, the presentations demonstrated a diverse range of experiences and perspectives. Even with this diversity, a number of themes were consistently raised in discussion. Each presenter in some way ended up speaking about how much they value nature within and around our city. They all spoke about the different ways they use green spaces to socialise, but they all expressed their love for Canberra as the Bush Capital.

Balancing the built environment with the natural environment is a challenge for any urban area, including here in Canberra. While some people expressed a view that large blocks and preserved natural areas were the best way to achieve balance, others shared a preference for an apartment that was near a park.

There is definitely a lot to be gained from seeing how, as a community, we come together and where we diverge, and how a diverse community can create a variety of unique experiences and perspectives. Too often in planning, we seem to seek the grand design, the one city shape or form that “works” for everyone. But perhaps there isn’t a single grand design, because quite possibly the grand design is a city that is as diverse as all the members of its community.

It was observed by one audience member that fitting this diversity together is a challenge. It is a challenge planners, architects and landscapes architects face every day. But it is also a challenge for everyone who calls our city home.

As the evening progressed, it was more and more evident our whole community, not just the professionals, needs a greater understanding of the diversity of experiences and perspectives that are shaping our city. In order to better understand each other’s point of view, we need to find more inclusive and cooperative approaches to having this discussion.

This is why I am so encouraged by what we have seen from the Making Space Initiative so far. The forum attempts to engage the community in a discussion with the designers and decision-makers to better understand each other’s requirements.

I have no doubt we will achieve this understanding as the Making Space Initiative progresses.

Suzanne Orr MLA is the Member for Yerrabi in the ACT Legislative Assembly and founder of the Making Space Initiative.

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