Canberra’s new cultural development

Emma Macdonald

New residential housing with a hit of art and culture is coming to Canberra.

It’s a long way from inner-city Melbourne filming video clips for Australia’s top bands to helping create a vision for a new community at the very edge of Canberra.

But that is where you will find Susan Davis, who commutes each week from her home in Mittagong to the site of Ginninderry, on Belconnen’s western fringe.

Ginninderry is the ACT’s newest suburban frontier – with a difference. Subject to development approval, it will cross over the border into NSW.

Designed to cater to Canberra’s needs as a growing city, the Ginninderry community will eventually contain 11,500 homes within four new suburbs, of which 6,500 homes will be built on the ACT side.

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Facilities will include new schools, shops, halls, child care centres and medical centres – all within short distance of Belconnen Town Centre. But it is the cultural life of the township that Susan is focused on.

Her background is in arts and film, most notably producing the music videos for bands such as Midnight Oil, the Hoodoo Gurus, Men at Work and Cold Chisel during their 1980’s heyday.

Her current contract as the “Community and Cultural Planning Manager” of Ginninderry comes after working on a wide range of community and cultural planning projects across the country, but significantly never before at the very beginning of a new community.

At its heart, the job is about weaving creative, cultural and artistic values into the fabric of the new township.

Susan believes the ACT is breaking new ground by appointing a cultural planner at this stage of a residential development.

“For me, the job is about planning the creative design of the area at the start of its 40-year roll-out and actually we have a lot of incredible ideas to work on.”

Already, Ginninderry has begun a number of artistic projects, including an Aboriginal Women’s Art Group workshop “Strong Women” in which Indigenous women work together to create artworks and products for the development. This project is the first in what will be an ongoing program of community arts activities at Ginninderry.

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Meanwhile, the first Ginninderry community centre is sited within the Strathnairn Arts precinct, a not-for-profit arts association supported by the ACT Government that provides working spaces and facilities for a range of artists and craftspeople and community groups.

Located close to the first stage of the Ginninderry project, Strathnairn has been engaged with the project team since 2013 to ensure a close integration of the arts facility with the new residential community.

Creating a permanent arts precinct similar to Byron Bay’s Arts and Industries Estate is also on the drawing board.

Susan has meanwhile been seeking ideas from the surrounding community, saying engagement was always the key to ensuring a successful embrace of a new development.

She found the Years 9 and 10 students at the Kingsford Smith School had plenty of good ideas on how to bring life to the open spaces in the development.

Maybe one day these students will make their home there.

“It is all about supporting the community to come up with ideas that encourage people to meet and talk – creating places people naturally gravitate to, such as a village square or a park. We want people to experience a sense of place here.”

To celebrate the opening of The Link and Ginninderry’s first sales release, why not head along to one of the team’s community information sessions this Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 April from 9am, 90 Stockdill Drive, Canberra? Click here to register your interest in attending, or head to the website for more information on activities and events.

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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