An Australian-first project to improve the liveability of Aboriginal communities is underway in the remote town of Warburton in Western Australia, led by AECOM, the University of Western Australia and the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku.
The Sustainable Warburton Project is a research, design and planning project to create new and improved urban spaces with the aim of transforming how Indigenous people live, that could be applied to Indigenous communities across Australia and around the world.
It brings Aboriginal residents of the town, 920km north east of Kalgoorlie, together with a team of AECOM specialists in urban design, ecology, landscape architecture and architecture, and academics and students from the University of Western Australia (UWA).
Projects designed include an award-winning community college and an urban agriculture scheme where orange trees irrigated with treated wastewater are planted throughout the town to provide shade, food, protection from dust and improved health.
Townspeople and community representatives have gathered over the past few months to discuss their needs in formal and informal settings with students and the project team to help identify community-enhancing projects.
Masters and honours students are now finalising design projects as part of their academic requirements which will become the basis for funding application and development. Designs will be presented to the Shire Council in February, when the winner of an AECOM prize for the most outstanding design will also be announced.
AECOM Project Director, Jon Shinkfield, who established the project’s framework with UWA, said it was a ground-breaking model to improve Aboriginal communities.
“This is the first tri-partisan relationship between an Australian Indigenous community, academia and industry to build a research and knowledge bank over a longer term with the focus on settlement planning and implementation,” Shinkfield said.
“The Sustainable Warburton Project will not only affect the future of the Warburton community but potentially inform the broader agenda of Indigenous settlement.
“We’re committed to a program focused on research, practice and realisation of a new spatial order for the town and it is hoped this will lead to major changes in the way Indigenous people can live.”
As projects are funded, students will become part of the development team to project-manage and deliver the initiatives for Warburton’s 600 residents. Projects focus on sustainability, community, urban planning, water and energy management and agriculture to improve health, education and social engagement, and include:
Community College – an award-winning design offering spatial opportunities for women’s meetings, a library and reading and other informal and formal gatherings.
Urban Agriculture – planting orange trees irrigated with treated wastewater throughout the town to provide shade, food, protection from dust and improved community health.
Housing Family Groups – a project looking at accommodation arrangements and clusters that work more harmoniously with how Indigenous families gather.
Warburton Arts Precinct – a project devoted to Warburton’s internationally exhibited art.
Community Services Facilities – making provision for the specific needs of community.
Town Spaces – incorporating productive landscapes into the town’s spatial structure.
Dean of the UWA’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts, Winthrop Professor Simon Anderson, has commended AECOM and the Shire Council of Ngaanyatjarraku on the project.
“This is a most important community-based planning and design initiative in partnership with our faculty,” Professor Anderson said.
Another Australian first
Work is also underway on a separate AECOM project to expand Warburton’s Early Learning Centre and Learning Landscape. In an Australian-first, it features a playgroup for Indigenous women and children with structured activities to help school become a more acceptable option for the future.
AECOM is also advising on alternative energy options to help find solutions to the community’s reliance on costly diesel fuel to drive the town’s generators.
AECOM plans an ongoing involvement in Warburton to ensure the proposed projects are delivered to the community as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility commitment.
“AECOM and UWA look forward to coming back to Warburton annually to build the knowledge base, see further projects conceived and help develop and implement them,” Shinkfield said.
many thanks to Reed publications for allowing me to repost this article from their website.