Living Streets Association | 2022 April

“Perfect example of how community consultations should be run, with clear diagrams, models and information, out on a sunny weekend with lots of the community around, engaging people in a friendly way, and young people involved in these issues! Keep up the good work!” – This sentiment was shared by many passers-by who engaged with the Living Streets Youth at the Community Consultations held at Watson shops over 2 weekends of the April school holidays.

We have been closely collaborating with a scholarly design team to consult with community residents about their needs and to investigate the achievability of the government’s proposals on Block Section 76.

ACT Government EPSDD’s Watson Section 76 Draft Place Plan and Development Concept from February 2021 proposed 150 to 200 dwellings on the block. In August of 2021, the design team began to work on this case study to configure the proposed number of dwellings onto the block, under the guidance of an Australian architect, Australian urban planning academic, and scholarly advisors from America’s Harvard University and England’s Cranfield University. The international design team arrived in Australia in February 2022 and started to get to know the environmental, architectural, and social context of Watson.

At the Community Consultations, Living Streets Youth helped raise awareness of government plans and gather residents’ views and concerns. It was found that residents were more concerned about the quality of community spaces and facilities, and how they meet the demands of the growing population in the area, specifically North Watson. If residents were concerned about housing, they wanted to know what the proposed “demonstration housing” meant. To respect the public opinion, the design team changed the direction of their design focus from housing types to community facilities such as childcare, public green space, and community centres.

During the consultations, it was important to document all of the ideas, feedback, and needs of the community, so that we can not only better understand the community, but also be able properly represent the lifestyle that people in the area would like to live. These were collected in post-it notes and written notes volunteers took while chatting with residents. All of the views from over 150 residents who engaged with us were organised into a succinct poster which you can view at this link, or in these photos below.

While all of our volunteers were met with smiles, and the community enjoyed a wonderful day connecting and chatting with friendly neighbours, we were aware that the topic that we were bringing to the table was one of great importance to people. From previous experience, we were conscious that sometimes there would be extremely passionate people who may either misunderstand our position as a community volunteer group or have a way of expressing their views that may be complicated to positively decipher. That is why the volunteers made sure to remind each other of our purpose of starting a conversation, and motivated each other to continue getting involved in taking responsible, challenging action in development issues that affect ourselves and others!

For this campaign, we are initiating the conversation about development at section 76 and its surroundings, and collecting the community’s ideas. We as a group hold no particular opinion, and only seek to raise awareness and the people’s voices. It is ok for the community to bring strong opinions to the discussion (about the government/political views, development, student designs etc.) because we aim to initiate conversation.

Excerpt from “Guidance for Volunteers- Community Consultations”