Project: Reclaiming Memorial Park
Organisation: Baw Baw Shire Council
Grant fund: Public Safety Infrastructure Fund
Grant amount: $250,000
Through a strong community engagement and partnership process and using a ‘space activation’ approach, Baw Baw Shire Council led the redevelopment and reinvigoration of Memorial Park in the Drouin town centre. The project was funded through a $250,000 Public Safety Infrastructure Fund grant awarded in 2014, with a further $168,577 contributed by the council.
Prior to the redevelopment, a lack of natural surveillance had contributed to an increase in antisocial behaviour, property damage and graffiti, and poor perceptions of safety at the park and around nearby shops. The environmental redesign of the park included new park entrances, upgraded paths and amenities, seating, lighting and assembly spaces. This has increased visibility and natural surveillance, improved public safety, and the park is now better connected to the town.
A central feature of the project was the design of new public art works by the local Aboriginal Kurnai community, the revamp of the park’s war memorial, and the installation of interpretive signage to highlight the park’s significance. These initiatives have successfully promoted the acknowledgement, valuing and sharing of the community’s history and culture.
The Council’s inclusive community consultation process, particularly with the Kurnai community, has not only resulted in significant improvements in the amenity and safety of the park for all Drouin residents, but has also improved community cohesion. Kurnai elders stated that they felt the park redevelopment was a “real partnership” and had fostered respect between cultures. Local police have also attested to stronger and better relationships between community members from different backgrounds.
The park was officially re-opened on 3 July 2015 with an Indigenous smoking ceremony, and with the attendance of Kurnai elders, community and business leaders, local police, members of the public and local media, the Mayor of Baw Baw Shire Council, and the Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, Ben Carroll.
After the project's completion, Council reported that community use of the park had greatly increased at all times of the day and evening, with the park becoming a focal point for the town and a source of pride for the community. Community members stated that they were no longer seeing graffiti, and that the space was friendly, open and well-used.
Police and local business leaders also reported a continued positive trend in the reduction in graffiti, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, combined with greatly improved public perceptions of safety. The park’s welcoming, safe atmosphere was encouraging more foot traffic in the area and had a positive impact on nearby businesses.
In 2016, around 1000 people attended the Anzac Day Dawn Service in the park which was a substantial increase on previous years. The local RSL has also installed a memorial stone in consultation with the council, showing the park’s new-found importance to the community as a place to gather and reflect.
To learn more about this project, watch the video or download a copy of the presentation slides below.