Canberra community groups have fun

Local enthusiasm for trees and parks

When community groups bring residents together to collectively do something for their suburb, good things happen.

This was illustrated in the November annual report by the outgoing Kingston Barton Group president, Rebecca Scouller. She outlined how in May more than 50 volunteers had planted nearly 9000 bulbs and annuals in Jardine Street. The event was co-ordinated with military precision. It was a fun event and the Kingston shopping centre looked really great.

This was part of Floriade Reimagined and was one of similar enthusiastic community events across Canberra. For some, this was a first hesitant step out following the pandemic lockdown. It involved families with children, older people and those not so attached.

A big thing was the support from local small businesses.

In Downer, the local group had such a good time with its Floriade Reimagined, it has since gathered to follow up with some new plantings, building on the earlier funded upgrade to the Downer Village Square. This village square has a very welcoming atmosphere thanks to local energies and enthusiasm. And Gang Gang is always a good café to meet friends – or to sit quietly and read a book.

There are lots of local initiatives that took place in 2020 that deserve to be recognised.

One was the planting of trees and shrubs in local parks. The one in Campbell in the park near the shops is going gangbusters and is starting to look like a small arboretum. This has been assisted with a small grant, but is largely due to a few bringing others together.

People quickly become keen to do something in their suburb – in this case in one corner of Campbell’s central park. There are other such planting activities happening and another success story is the one in Cole Street, Downer.

A good word goes out to certain government workers who have developed a reputation for their welcomed assistance whenever possible to make these fun things happen.

Seeing any one of these projects, I cannot help but think how wonderful it is when locals do these things themselves. These community goings-on are so much more successful when it is driven from within the community and is managed and followed up by locals.

Canberra has a great network of joint community councils and, alongside them, a host of smaller suburban groups – some formal and some not so.

Many have come into being to fight off some outrageous proposal by the Planning Directorate and its developer mates. Having come into being, many soon take the opportunity to turn their attention to bringing the community together for fun things that build a sense of community.

They do this in Lyneham with their Light Up Lyneham Festival. Sadly because of the pandemic, this was not to be in 2020. But based on the huge success in 2019, I am sure it will be back in 2021.

Looking back at 2020, there was a heap of nasty things happening thanks to the Planning Directorate and the on-going inappropriate developments. Despite this, or maybe in answer to this, many community groups turned their attention to the fun things that they could be doing – such as those mentioned above. There were many more.

Surely the new Labor/Greens government should be seriously thinking about allocating more resources to work with the established resident groups to have wonderful things happen in the local parks and community centres.

The key is not to simply have more of those disconnected pop-ups and coloured street thingies, but to resource community groups directly so locals can take the running on what and where things could happen. It is really that easy.

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This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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