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Socialising in the city

Catherine Carter

‘Socialising’ can mean many different things.

Kicking up your heels or kicking a football. Catching a flick or a fish. Gathering to celebrate, commemorate or catch up for coffee.

But socialising isn’t just about connecting with people. It’s about finding our place.

A social city is also a prerequisite for a globally-competitive city in the 21st century. Social activities not only promote human connections but also share knowledge and build valuable social capital.

With this in mind, Suzanne Orr, a member of the ACT’s Legislative Assembly, is bringing together a range of people who live in Canberra to look at our city through a social lens.

Suzanne grew up in Giralang “playing cricket with my neighbours in our cul-de-sac”. Her first job at the Sizzler in Belconnen marked the start of a decade-long career in hospitality and tourism, before she completed a university degree and embarked on a career as an urban planner.

Suzanne Orr

She’s passionate about planning and good urban design, and believes there is a lot more we can do to “improve the way we build our city and how we engage with the community”.

On Wednesday 18 April, the second Making Space event will be held at the Legislative Assembly. With the theme of “socialise”, a range of speakers will explore how people use our spaces.

“Form follows function. If you don’t know the function you’re trying to achieve you’re not necessarily building the best form,” Suzanne says. “So, we’re trying to bring the function right back into the discussion. It’s about bringing the users of our city, their needs and experiences, into the conversation.”

Louise Billman is one of these speakers. YWCA’s Canberra Manager of Childhood Services, Louise runs a large team over five locations.

“For me, socialising for me is about trying to achieve work, life and health balance,” she explains.

“I spend a lot of time travelling between ‘hot desks’ and spend a significant amount of my time talking to people. When I get the chance to socialise outside of this, I really appreciate the convenience of accessing the gym, good quality coffee and great tasting food close to home.”

After moving to Canberra from Melbourne, Louise said she “spent a lot of time looking for festival, market and community activities that really bring people together. I’ve found that over time Canberra seems to be having more and more events that bring different cultures, local small business and green spaces together which is really important to my family.”

Sunita Dhindsa is another speaker. A scientist who writes poetry in three languages, Sunita is the secretary of the Federation of Indian Associations of ACT Inc.

She says cultural background and where we grow up “strongly influences” socialisation preferences, as well as religion, opportunity, accessibility and age.

“Due to my Indian sub-continent background, socialisation holds importance in my life. Locations that provide good food, inclusive atmosphere and accessible facilities get preference.”

Sunita thinks the ACT is “particularly lacking” in family-oriented venues that can accommodate gatherings of greater than 500 people with adequate parking, where cooking and catering of traditional food can be done.

Liz Quinn is in the Navy and says her main social outlet is Aussie Rules football.

“I’m the co-Head Coach of the Gungahlin Jets Senior Women’s Team. I really believe in the power of sport to change people’s lives for the better and provide women with opportunities to develop self-confidence, social skills and fitness in an environment that is fun and non-judgemental.

“As most of my socialising is in the sport and recreation space, it’s really important to me to have the facilities and infrastructure that allow women to meet and interact in safe and secure environments.”

“A city is a living thing,” Suzanne adds. “It’s changing and evolving and requires an ongoing conversation.”

To be part of the conversation, register to attend Making Space at


Catherine Carter

A lover of books and beauty, a seasoned traveller and a creative thinker, Catherine Carter is passionate about Canberra. Head of the Property Council of Australia’s Canberra office for more than a decade, Catherine now provides specialist business and communication consultancy services with a focus on urban environments, new forms of collaboration, community building and diversity. Catherine was the recipient of the Telstra Business Women’s ACT Community and Government Award in 2010 and the National Association of Women in Construction Crystal Vision Award in 2017. More about the Author

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