posing in the wasteland near Sunshine
railway station at the beginning of
Re-imagining Your Neighbourhood,
Considerable research has been done
in recent years in to the perceptions
young people have about the future.
Numerous reports have documented the
fear and apathy that many Western
youth experience in discussing their
expectations of the future. The findings
indicate that there is a strong need
to help young people develop alternative
visions of the future and a sense
of hope and possibility. Such empowerment
is necessary for the emotional and
psychological well being of young
people. It is also of great importance
socially to encourage people to think
constructively about the future in
ways that revitalise social purpose
and planning. "Re-Imagining Your
Neighbourhood" (RYN) was designed
in response to these needs through
its focus on holistic education and
the positive engagement of young people
in their community.
working on the 1997 mural created
as part of Re-imagining Sunshine,
the 1997 pilot project.
RYN has been designed and developed
by Imagine the Future Inc. (ITF) over
a number of years. The program was
first tested in 1997 with a pilot
project called "Re-Imagining
Sunshine". Thirty year 11 students
from Sunshine Secondary College participated
in this 16 week project to identify
and research the issues that concerned
them, imagine a better future for
their neighbourhood, then visually
represent their aspirations in a graffiti-style
mural about a healthy and sustainable
Sunshine. Their work was installed
in the local shopping centre and officially
launched by the mayor. Students also
presented a series of recommendations
on environmental and social health
to the Brimbank City Council.
coordinator, Carmen Stewart, speaking
at a public celebration of the Sunshine
mosaic, December 1998. (The mural
was still incomplete at this stage.
Also see artist Anne
Riggs' report to understand why.)
Re-Imagining Your Nieighbourhood:
98 was managed by Imagine the
Future Inc. in consultation with representatives
from the Brimbank City Council and
participating schools. Carmen Stewart,
who is a consultant with ITF, designed
and facilitated the project in her
capacity as Project Co-ordinator.
Riggs was the visual artist on
the team who facilitated the students'
artwork. The Director of ITF, Merrill
Findlay, was responsible for project
management. Anne Tuke, who was a community
development student from Swinburne
University at the time, assisted in
facilitating the project as a fieldwork
of the sets of paving tiles created
by students, Sunshine, 1998.
Many representatives from the Brimbank
City Council provided invaluable support
to the project. Jenny Macaffer (Community
Planner) was instrumental in gaining
council's support and acted as council
liaison as well as attending classes.
John Monoghan (Engineering Services)
organised all of the technical support
for the installation of the art work.
Rob Vines (Group Manager - Economic
Development) organised the students'
participation in the urban design
process. Council's external urban
design team, Thomson Berrill Landscape
Design, facilitated the workshops
to redesign the Modal Interchange.
James Galea (Park Ranger) organised
the tree planting activity. The Brimbank
City Council also provided financial
support to the project by meeting
all costs associated with the urban
design team and installing the artwork.
Ninety students from years 9 to 12
from Sunshine Secondary College and
Marian Catholic College participated.
The year 11 and 12 students from Sunshine
Secondary College were from media
studies and Australian studies classes.
The year 9 and 10 students from Marian
Catholic College were from a variety
of curriculum areas having nominated
to do the project as an extra curricular
activity. The content of the project
was designed to meet the various curriculum
and learning needs of all participants.
The aims and objectives of Re-Imagining
Your Neighbourhood: 98 were as
• To provide an educational
structure to enable students to critically
and creatively explore viable future
options for the Sunshine region.
• To identify the issues - local
and global - that are of concern to
• To create a context for students
to gain an informed understanding
of these issues through formal and
• To develop an understanding
of the possibilities for addressing
these issues in ways that encourage
sustainability and health.
• To involve students in the
design of a healthy urban design framework
for the pedestrian precinct of the
Modal Interchange in Sunshine.
• To design and create community
artworks reflecting the students'
aspirations for the future.
• To establish a framework for
the active participation of young
people and schools in the local community.
• To foster a positive image
of young people working together,
with and for, their local community.
• To increase social confidence
and action by helping students develop
an understanding of the needs and
possibilities for healthy futures.
• To further develop the project's
content and potential.
tiles created by students, Re-imagining
Your Neighbourhood, Sunshine 1998.
The tiles are now installed in Withers
Street, Sunshine shopping centre.
RYN operated for sixteen weeks in
weekly classes of one and a half hours.
We began by asking students what concerned
them about their world and neighbourhood.
We then facilitated an education program
to explore positive strategies to
deal with these issues. Students were
encouraged to imagine significant
details of what a healthy neighbourhood
could look and feel like and to identify
what we need to do to create it. Their
active participation in determining
their environment was encouraged through
processes of dialoguing with council,
conducting interviews, community art,
tree plantings and the design of public
spaces. A brief version of the program
is attached as 'Appendix A'.
and Community Education
The first stage of the project was
dedicated to a futures and community
education program that set the context
for the urban design and artwork stages
that followed. This form of education
is concerned with helping students
to critically and creatively explore
the possibilities that exist for future
health. It aims to create more thoughtful
decision making in the present by
empowering students with a sense of
hope and possibility. Activities in
this program included the following:
• Discussions on the issues
that concerned students about their
world and neighbourhood. The issues
of greatest concern to students were
environmental degradation and social
violence. Other issues frequently
raised were war, the widening gap
between rich and poor, social isolation,
destructive technologies, employment
prospects, racism, drugs and an increasingly
de-personalised world. In relation
to their local neighbourhood, concerns
were also raised about the stigma
associated with living in the West,
the lack of facilities and opportunities
for social interaction, and the need
to strengthen community pride.
The depth of the students' awareness
of these issues strongly suggests
that young people are aware of and
affected by the growing complexity
and challenges of our world. Students
could talk at great length about the
world's problems and project these
concerns on to a future of environmental
degradation and social decay. They
expressed a strong desire to create
a healthy future, but initially struggled
to articulate any real confidence
in such a future eventuating.
• Discussions about the needs
and possibilities for community and
personal health. Through workshops,
the students developed their understanding
of the ways in which health and sustainability
can be encouraged. This stage of the
program included guest speaker presentations
on the local environment, local council,
sustainability initiatives, community
safety, youth issues and the history
of their bio-region. The students
also visited CERES which is an environment
and technology park in Brunswick.
Through these workshops they participated
in discussions on alternative technologies,
ecosystems, safety, multi-culturalism,
and the importance of urban design
in encouraging social health and stimulation.
• An emphasis was placed on
discussing the students' experience
of their local neighbourhood. Students
were asked to talk about the places
they liked to hang out and the places
they avoided in their local environment.
Many of the places they listed as
frequenting for entertainment or relaxation
were outside of Brimbank. Visiting
the houses of friends and hanging
out at the plaza or cinema were the
most frequent local activities of
students. They said that they would
socialise more locally if the built
environment was more visually pleasing
and encouraging of interaction.
As found in the 'Growing Up in Cities'
project report (K. Malone, Deakin
University, Braybrook, 97), girls
were more inhibited in their use of
public space and stayed closer to
home than boys. Students tended to
avoid places that were poorly lit
or lacking in social interaction.
Many students talked about feeling
unsafe in parks and public spaces
because of a presence of drugs and
alcohol. When we asked them to raise
their hands if they had ever been
threatened or approached to buy drugs,
few responded. For many students,
their perceptions of drug and safety
issues have come from stories, media
and from the warnings of parents to
"be careful out there".
Nevertheless, personal safety is a
huge issue for young people and the
greatest influence on their use of
public space. The students' suggestions
for developing a greater sense of
community safety included improved
lighting and strategies to encourage
greater use of public space.
• Students from Marian Catholic
College painted seats and planted
native trees at the Withers Street
Carpark in Sunshine. This location
was a rather ugly shopping strip and
the colour and plants have helped
to improve the aesthetics of this
area. The Withers Street Carpark is
the site where we have installed the
paving tiles prepared by Sunshine
Secondary College students.
The Modal Interchange is a major pedestrian
thoroughfare outside of the Sunshine
train station. In conjunction with council
we developed an initiative to involve
students in a design process to transform
this asphalt wasteland in to an open
space for community use. The objective
of this activity was to provide students
with an opportunity to physically transform
their environment and to develop their
understanding of healthy urban design.
working on the mosaic near the Sunshine
station, December 1998.
The process we had negotiated with
council prior to the project's commencement
was for the work of the students to
be included in the final design process.
Shortly after the project commenced
however, we were informed by a Group
Manager from council that the design
process for the site had been virtually
finalised by an external team of urban
design consultants. This problem arose
due to an internal communication breakdown
in council following the resignation
of the urban designer who had helped
negotiate the students' involvement.
As it was only one week until the
process was set to start, a compromise
was reached between the 'professional'
agenda of a council department and
our own agenda of youth participation.
The students continued with the design
process however the authenticity of
their participation and efforts at
consultation were undermined.
The students began by conducting
167 surveys with local residents and
workers at the site. The process of
conducting the surveys was in itself
a positive experience for many students.
For many it was an issue of self-confidence
to approach people walking past. They
were abuzz with discussions about
who they had interviewed and what
had been said. Few had ever experienced
a 'serious' conversation with an adult
outside of home, school or work. Many
people they approached valued the
opportunity to share their ideas and
concerns for the site with the belief
that their suggestions would be presented
through these young people to council.
The findings from the survey process
are attached as Appendix B.
The students then participated in
workshops with an urban designer from
Thomson Berrill Landscape Design.
The students learnt about the principals
of urban design and creating contexts
for social interaction and stimulation.
With the assistance of the urban designer
they then prepared over thirty site
plans for the Modal Interchange. These
site plans included their own ideas
as well as the findings from the survey
The students presented their site
plans and the findings from the survey
process to council staff and Councillors.
As mentioned the authenticity of this
consultation process had been compromised
prior to the project's commencement.
This compromise didn't however undermine
the value of the activity as the process
of consultation and learning about
healthy urban design was a valuable
experience in its own right. Students
became more aware of the social, environmental
and aesthetic considerations of urban
design. Their site plans reflected
this awareness and successfully integrated
their findings from the surveys. We
will use similar design modules in
future projects while seeking to ensure
that the integrity of the consultation
and participation processes are upheld.
Approximately half way in to RYN
we began work on a community arts
project. The theme of this art work
was to represent the students' aspirations
for a socially and environmentally
healthy future for Sunshine. The students
were asked to incorporate what they
had learnt about social and environmental
health in to a process of imagining
the sort of future that they would
like to live in. With the assistance
Riggs (project artist), students
from Sunshine Secondary College designed
and painted a series of wall and floor
tiles. The larger group from Marian
College worked with Anne to design
and create a large wall mosaic at
the Modal Interchange.
tile by students, 1998.
At Sunshine Secondary College the
students painted 30 sets of floor
and wall tiles. Their designs included
images of environmental health, a
community of cultural diversity, entertainment,
a stimulating built environment, music,
art, sport, public transport, community
pride, street life and appropriate
technologies. These tiles were glazed
by Anne Riggs. Half of the tiles were
then set in to concrete blocks. With
the technical and financial assistance
of council, these blocks were placed
in the paving at the Withers Street
shopping area in Sunshine. The remaining
tiles were placed on the walls in
the foyer of the Sunshine Harvester
Marian College students worked in
groups to design large scale images
of things they feel are important
to their neighbourhood's future. They
then broke the tiles up and created
each image as a separate piece. They
also designed and made people and
thought bubbles to link these pieces
together on the wall. With the technical
and financial assistance of council,
the mosaic was placed on the rectangular
wall outside of the Sunshine train
station. The mosaic is clearly visible
from the St Albans train line and
is also visible to pedestrian traffic
at the site.
Community art has proven to be a
very effective medium for developing
the abilities of young people to imagine
and understand concepts of healthy
futures. It has also proven to be
effective in developing the self-esteem
of students. Very few students initially
had any artistic confidence. With
the encouragement they received from
Anne Riggs they were able to create
high quality designs and artworks
reflecting their aspirations for the
future. The quality and descriptiveness
of their work has attracted substantial
recognition from council, peers, family
and media. The students launched their
work at a public celebration on December
10, 1998. Local government representatives,
media, family and residents attended
this event. See Appendix C for photographic
ON THE OUTCOME
The Brimbank City Council has played
a key role in the successful development
of RYN. Despite the communication
breakdown in the urban design process,
council's role in the project has
been extremely validating of the concerns,
suggestions and participation of young
people in creating community health.
Jenny Macaffer has been instrumental
in nurturing this relationship on
council's behalf. Through representatives
such as Jenny, opportunities for participation
and consultation have flourished through
the RYN project.
In week one of the project we conducted
a survey with students asking them
questions about their neighbourhood
and the future. The survey was designed
to gauge the students' feelings of
hope and fear about varying social
and environmental issues. We planned
to conduct the same survey at the
end of the project to provide a comparative
indication of how the perceptions
and expectations of students changed.
We encountered difficulties in gathering
the second round of data as some students
left and many more joined at different
stages of the project. As the survey
relied on quantitative data the inconsistency
of participants made a comparative
analysis of the project's effectiveness
worked with four different class and
age groups and a different relationship
was established in each. At Sunshine
Secondary College we worked with small
classes of 15 students. These students
were aged from 16 to 20 years old.
At Marian College there were approximately
30 female students in each class.
These students were 14 and 15 years
old. With ninety young people participating
it was difficult to monitor the ways
in which individual participants changed
or benefitted. Some students favoured
the education and design program while
other students came along for the
artwork. All students felt the project
was personally beneficial and that
it raised important questions concerning
the future of their neighbourhood.
The younger students from Marian
College embraced the project with
the most enthusiasm. In comparison
the year 12 media students from Sunshine
Secondary College were quite resistant
to participating in community initiatives.
Reasons for this may include the focus
of older students on assessment and
their own personal futures following
school. They also displayed a greater
level of skepticism about the world
than the younger students. This is
consistent with other findings in
the futures field that suggests pessimism
increases with age and awareness.
There are obvious benefits in working
with both age groups and we will continue
to develop RYN for this purpose.
community participating in the procession
down Withers Street, where the project
tiles were laid, to the Sunshine Railway
station where the project mural was
opened, December 1998.
The content was effective in providing
students with an opportunity to validate
their concerns and aspirations and
to learn about the possibilities that
exist for community health. Talking
about their own experience of living
in Sunshine, realising that other
people care, learning about the region's
history and the initiatives for change
in place, opened many students up
to a greater sense of personal and
social possibility. The content provided
students with information that they
don't normally access in mainstream
education. Although the ideal of participation
was undermined in the urban design
process, the students still experienced
a heightened sense of community interaction
and involvement. This interaction
also served to encourage community
awareness as to the aspirations of
its youth and presents a challenge
to how young people are perceived
Involvement of Students
Since the completion of RYN approximately
25 students have participated in other
Council funded initiatives. 20 young
people participated in a project to
design and paint powerpoles with themes
of community spirit in January. Another
eight students were employed by Council
to work on an arts project with residents
at the recent Brimbank Festival. An
objective of the RYN project was to
foster relationships between schools
and council to encourage this ongoing
involvement of young people in their
set of project tiles installed in
the Brimbank Library, Sunshine, November
Re-Imagining Your Neighbourhood
1998 was a successful initiative
in providing young people with an
opportunity to define their social
aspirations, and to experience a heightened
sense of community participation.
The learnings from 1998 will enable
us to further develop the content
and potential of RYN. The methodology
of this project is of relevance to
both mainstream education and council
consultation initiatives. If education
aims to prepare students with a positive
outlook for their future roles and
responsibilities, then it must integrate
processes that can cultivate social
confidence and vision. It is also
important to acknowledge the important
contribution that young people can
make in the present, to determining
the future of their neighbourhoods.
Through the cultivation of imagination,
hope and an experience of participation,
young people can develop the motivation
and will necessary to actively participate
in creating healthier communities.
We would like to thank VicHealth
for providing the funding that has
helped us to further develop this
important project. Many thanks also
to the Brimbank City Council for the
support it has given to Re-Imagining
Your Neighbourhood over the past
Project Co-ordinator 1998
Fixed March 2004, revised 30 July