YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD: a proposal
by Carmen Stewart, on behalf of Imagine
The Future Inc, 1998.
Project background: Reimagining Sunshine
Re-Imagining Your Neighbourhood is
a consultation, visioning and research project
hosted by Imagine the Future and the Brimbank
Year 10 and 11 students
from schools in the Brimbank municipality
have been invited to participate in a project
to imagine a socially and ecologically sustainable
future for their neighbourhood. In
so doing, the students will prepare a series
of recommendations detailing their concerns
and aspirations for their community to contribute
to the planning processes of the Brimbank
municipality. The students will explore
ways of creatively and constructively contributing
to their local neighbourhoods in ways that
empower them personally and encourage social
and ecological health and safety.
of the 1997 mural.
In 1997 Imagine the Future
facilitated a highly successful six month 'futures
education' program with year 11 students from
Sunshine Secondary College. The project
called Re-imagining Sunshine, provided
an educational structure to enable students to
explore the local social and environmental issues
of concern to them and their community.
The students then researched and discussed strategies
to deal with these issues in positive and constructive
ways. This research formed a series of recommendations
concerning issues of health, safety and sustainability.
A large mural was also designed and painted by
students expressing the sort of future for Sunshine
that they would like to live in. This work
was presented to the wider community and the Brimbank
Sunshine and Re-Imagining Your Neighbourhood
programs have been designed in response
to the considerable research that has been
done in to young people's perceptions of
the future. This research which has
been carried out by various bodies including
the Australian Science and Technology Council
(ASTEC) and the Commonwealth Scientific
and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO),
indicates an alarming level of pessimism
about the future amongst young people.
There is an enormous need to address this
pessimism for the emotional and psychological
well being of young people. It is
also a social need to encourage people to
think constructively about the future in
ways that re-introduce social purpose.
Re-Imagining Your Neighbourhood has
been designed as a response to these needs
through its focus on processes of empowerment
and the positive engagement of young people
in their community.
Following on from the
success of Re-Imagining Sunshine,
Imagine the Future and the Brimbank City
Council have undertaken a joint initiative
to offer this program to other schools and
communities in Brimbank.
The Brimbank City Council is presently involved
in designing community consultation processes
on issues of health, safety and the future
of the municipality. Re-Imagining
Your Neighbourhood is an opportunity
to both empower young people through community
engagement, and an opportunity for Council
to participate in in-depth consultation
processes that will contribute to community
- To provide an educational
structure to enable students to critically
and creatively explore issues of social
and environmental health, safety and sustainability.
- To create a context
in which students can gain an informed
understanding of these issues through
formal and community research. The
students will participate in conducting
community interviews and audits, local
excursions and presentations by guest
speakers who will share their knowledge
about the region.
- To explore strategies
to deal with issues of concern in positive
and constructive ways.
- For students to develop
a set of recommendations reflecting their
concerns and aspirations for their neighbourhoods
and to contribute these to the planning
processes of the Brimbank City Council.
- To develop written
texts and visual images of the possible
social and ecological future of their
- To present the work
of the students through community arts.
- To encourage the
students to participate in implementing
some of their recommendations by providing
the necessary resources and local support.
- To encourage the
participation of young people and the
wider community in a process of consultation
regarding sustainability, safety and health.
- To include material
prepared by students on Imagine the Future's
established World Wide Web site at www.ecoversity.org.au
and thereby develop the student's internet
skills and enable other schools and community
groups to access their work.
- To provide young
people with research and problem solving
activities that will develop their communication
skills, use of technology and imagination,
and an ability to work within team settings.
- To further integrate
participating schools in to their wider
- To promote local
initiatives and community ownership of
health, safety and sustainability.
- For students to participate
in the Global Youth Visions Project.
(This project links young people globally
via electronic mail and the post.
All participants are involved in a wider
array of local sustainability initiatives.)
- To help participants
develop the knowledge and confidence necessary
to become hopeful, active and responsible
The project will be
designed and managed by Imagine the Future
Inc. in consultation with the Brimbank City
Council and participating schools.
The project will commence
in schools at the beginning of Semester
2 in June, 1998. Participating classes
will dedicate one double period per week
to the project. We envisage that the
final presentation of the student's recommendations,
art and other work, will take place in November,
1998 to Council, media and the wider community.
young people in Brimbank will participate
in this project. We envisage the participating
schools to be Sunshine Secondary College,
St Alban's Secondary College, Kings Park
Junior Campus and Marian Catholic College.
Any curriculum areas are eligible for participation.
Young people from the Sunshine Youth Housing
Project have also been invited to participate
alongside students from Sunshine Secondary
College in the urban design and arts component
of the project.
Imagine the Future has
been involved in designing a comprehensive
program of community education that has
a particular focus on future issues of sustainability,
health and safety. Each school will
follow the same program with variations
occurring in curriculum areas, the arts
component and final presentation of work.
An example of the core program is attached
as Appendix A.
Carmen Stewart from
Imagine the Future will facilitate the education
program in consultation with classroom teachers.
Carmen has a background in futures education,
project co-ordination and youth work.
Young People in their Local Community
Neighbourhood is an integrated research,
consultation and implementation process
on issues of community health, safety and
sustainability. What is unique
about this project is its approach to the
consultation process. Re-Imagining
Your Neighbourhood will run in schools for
a period of five months. During this
time students will participate in an intensive
process of identifying, researching and
problem-solving local issues of concern.
As well as exploring their own concerns
and ideas for improvement, they will also
participate in dialogue with and research
in the wider community.
In Re-Imagining Sunshine
we spent several lessons walking around
the neighbourhood discussing various aspects
of the built and natural environment.
In these walks the students showed us the
spots they avoided for fear of attack, the
places they used to retreat and socialise,
they had their own naming practices and
internalised maps according to what they
valued, and developed opinions on what was
valuable and missing in their community.
Many young people in Brimbank rarely travel
outside of their local environment due to
lack of transport, finances, parental restrictions
or fear for their safety. Due to the
high relevance of the local environment
to their daily experience, they have an
intimate knowledge of local communities
that often exceeds that of adults who have
less physical contact with their locality.
This knowledge is of great value to the
local community and has a large contribution
to make to community planning processes.
The local community
is a very important forum for the authentic
and active participation of young people
in policy making and positive social engagement.
What many young people lack in is a confidence
in their own ability to speak and be heard.
Factors such as having an identity within
their community, belonging to a cohesive
community culture, and having accessible
and stimulating public spaces are very important
to young people. (Malone, K., 97)
An ability to be heard and to participate
is of great importance to the development
of self-confidence, a sense of community
identity and a willingness and ability
to participate in active citizenship.
Re-Imagining Your Neighbourhood will focus
on the further development of processes
and content capable of integrating young
people in to their communities in personally
and socially empowering ways.
in Community Planning
Re-Imagining Your Neighbourhood
will provide young people with a forum to
present their concerns and ideas through
the preparation of recommendations for inclusion
in Council planning. The recommendations
prepared by participants in Re-Imagining
Sunshine reflected a high degree of community
knowledge and well-considered ideas for
change. The changes they wanted were
relatively selfless desires to see their
creek restored to health, more long-term
thinking reflected in local planning, accessible
services and the cleaning and beautifying
of their built environment. They had
realistic ideas of how these steps could
be implemented and an understanding of the
social and personal responsibility involved
in creating this change. The response
they received from both Council and community
was a real validation of their worth and
potential to positively contribute to their
neighbourhood. The recommendations
prepared by students from Re-Imagining Sunshine
are included as Appendix B.
Following the process
of researching and presenting recommendations
to Council, students will be assisted in
implementing one of their recommendations
through the provision of appropriate resources
and support. The students will negotiate
this process in conjunction with their school,
Council and interested community groups
and businesses. This process of implementation
will establish a forum for the ongoing involvement
of the students at the conclusion of the
project. Following Re-Imagining
Sunshine, a core group of students have
maintained their involvement in community
initiatives through participation in Council
meetings and the design of a poster showing
"healthy communities in Brimbank".
in Community Safety and Crime Prevention
Along side issues of
environmental safety and health, community
safety is the largest issue of concern to
most young Australians. In research
carried out by ASTEC with a sampler group
of 950 young people, 68% of participants
expected issues of crime and violence to
worsen. (ASTEC, 96, "Future
Needs 2010"). In similar research
conducted at the beginning of the Re-Imagining
Sunshine project, 74% of participants
expected issues of crime and violence in
Australia to worsen. Due to the project's
community research and problem-solving focus,
in response to the same survey question
at the end of Re-Imagining Sunshine, only
28% of students expected issues of crime
and violence to worsen. This change
in perception was largely due to the opportunity
the students had to discuss their concerns
and learn of the individual and community
responses that can be made.
The research findings of Re-Imagining Sunshine
are included in the final project report
included as Appendix C (pp21-27).
Due to the high statistical
representation of young people as offenders
and victims of crime, it is essential to
involve young people in identifying crime
and safety problems and strategies of response.
Their involvement in this process will heighten
both their understanding and ownership of
these issues. It is an opportunity
to move towards a more whole-of-community
approach to safety through an integration
of community issues in to the curriculum
and activities of schools.
In conjunction with
the Brimbank City Council, students will
participate in a needs analysis of local
community safety and crime issues.
Their involvement in this process will include
the following components:
- the identification
of social and environmental safety needs
- a focus on
the environmental and structural contributions
to issues of concern;
- the identification
and promotion of practical strategies
to address these needs - in particular
a focus on primary prevention;
based action research which will include
community audits; and
- the opportunity
for some students to work alongside the
senior management team (yet to be appointed)
in co-ordinating and implementing the
community safety plan.
Participation in Local Health Promotion
Students will be presented
with a holistic understanding of health
as it relates to the personal, social and
environmental aspects of life.
A similar process to that outlined in "Participation
in Community Safety and Crime Prevention"
will be followed in exploring issues of
health. As well as identifying health
risks the students will explore the environmental,
social and behavioural factors which cause
ill-health. They will then participate
in researching innovative methods of community
health promotion that aim to change community
attitudes and behaviours towards health.
At the invitation of the Brimbank City Council,
students will focus on methods of health
promotion through the design of community
spaces that encourage well-being.
Merrill Findlay from Imagine the Future
has expertise in issues of healthy urban
design and will co-ordinate this segment
of the project in conjunction with Council.
Although all students
will participate in urban design initiatives,
students from Sunshine Secondary College
will take this design project one step further
in their community arts project. Young
people from the Sunshine Youth Housing Program
will also be invited to participate.
Together the young people will be involved
in an intensive arts project to re-design
the sites outside of the Sunshine library
and train station. In conjunction
with Council, the young people will research
and design these sites to jointly promote
community health and the need for interactive
and stimulating urban environments.
The focus of the arts component of the project
will be for the young people to participate
in implementing and creating the spaces
they design. In conjunction
with a skilled arts worker, the young people
will design and create a mosaic art piece
which will feature themes of personal, community
and ecological health. It is envisaged
that this mosaic art piece will become the
feature design of the site outside of the
Sunshine train station.
Focus on Future Sustainability
Re-Imagining Your Neighbourhood
is unique in its focus on long-term issues of
social and ecological sustainability. The
students will participate in future visioning
and other techniques that encourage the integration
of imaginative processes in to the learning experience.
Their visions and aspirations will be creatively
expressed through the medium of community art.
The development of an ability to imagine a sustainable
future is integral to all aspects of the project
design. Through the strengthening of hope
and imagination, we can empower young people
with a belief and understanding of local possibilities
for social and ecological well-being.
and Professional Development
The focus of Re-Imagining
Your Neighbourhood will encourage the
further integration of personal and social
needs in to the academic and vocational
focus of schools. Due to the relevance
of the issues discussed in the program to
the life experience of the students, they
will develop skills of 'real life' action
research and problem solving. Students
will participate in group work, research,
peer learning and mediation, work outside
of the classroom, the planning of activities,
the design of web-sites and use of technology,
and the design and implementation of community
arts projects. These activities will
further develop in participants the self-esteem,
health and safety awareness, confidence,
and leadership, problem solving and employment
skills needed to become active and responsible
Community arts is a
highly effective means of presenting the
ideas and visions of students in a way that
is accessible to the wider community.
In Re-Imagining Sunshine students painted
a 10m x 3m mural detailing various aspects
of health and sustainability. This
mural has provided a lasting visual image
of what healthy communities can look like
as well as being a tool for participants
to gain a greater sense of self-esteem and
participation. It is envisaged that
individual schools will participate in the
following arts components:
and Painting a Community Mural
The Victorian University
of Technology (VUT) at St Albans has asked
for students from St Albans Secondary College
to design and paint a mural detailing a
sustainable and healthy future for their
area. A wall has already been designated
for this purpose. The students will
work with a skilled visual artist in designing
and painting this mural.
in Urban Design
As discussed above in
"Participation in Local Health Promotion",
the Brimbank City Council has requested
the involvement of young people from Sunshine
Secondary College and the Sunshine Youth
Housing Project, in a project to re-design
the landscapes of several key areas within
Sunshine. The young people will be
responsible for researching community needs,
issues of aesthetics, re-imagining how the
designated area could look and coming up
with a final design plan for Council.
As a further contribution to this urban
design project, students will work with
a skilled artist to design and lay a series
of mosaic tiles featuring themes of community
Students from Marian
College and Kings Park Junior Campus will
be invited to design and stage a performance
which celebrates the symbiotic relationship
between people's well-being and the physical
environment. The final theme and nature
of the theatrical celebration will however
be decided upon by the students in conjunction
with skilled arts workers, schools and Council.
All four schools will participate in this
event where final presentations and a celebration
of the students work will take place.
Eckersley, R. et al Australian
Science and Technology Council: Future Needs
2010 Young People's Dreams and Expectations
for Australia in 2010 and the Role of Science
and Technology (ACT, Australian Government
K. "Young People's Right to Participate
in Planning for their Future: Growing Up
in Cities" (Vic, July '97)