10 Aug 2020

Porter, Matunga, Viswanathan (et al, 2017) define Indigenous planning as ‘Indigenous peoples spatialising their aspirations, spatialising their identity, spatialising their indigeneity’. This definition encompasses the connection between Indigenous people and place and articulating this through the built form.

The 2016 census shows the local Indigenous population in the Hawkesbury area is around 3.7%. The Indigenous community provide a deep understanding of the cultural significance and historical value of the local Hawkesbury land, spirit and culture, and can provide a wealth of insights to create a successful master planning process.

The late 1700s saw conflict between Indigenous people and European settlers, resulting in mistreatment and loss of life. Council has recognised this injustice and the ongoing inequalities for Indigenous people through the development of a Reconciliation Action Plan, which has been recently finalised for submission to Reconciliation Australia.

In partnership with Hawkesbury City Council, we are undertaking engagement with the local Indigenous community to support the creation of a Vibrant Towns and Villages Masterplan, which focuses on the towns of Richmond, South Windsor and Windsor.

Our Design team has also been leading the Revitalising our Town Centre project, which aims to revitalise Richmond, South Windsor and Windsor for locals and visitors alike while investigating new and improved uses for the town centre areas.

Hawkesbury City Council describes the region as a vibrant and collaborative community living in harmony with their history and environment, whilst valuing their diversity, striving for innovation, a strong economy, and retaining their lifestyle and identity.

At Urbis, we know that place matters because it is the essence of any connected, inclusive, and vibrant community. It affords us a sense of belonging and camaraderie. It is multi-dimensional and made up of attributes unique to its location and purpose. It is a focus point for diversity and culture in our society.

Engagement with the local indigenous community was sought to help mould and influence the following aspects of the Revitalising our Town Centres project:

  • Masterplans for Richmond, South Windsor and Windsor
  • Public domain plans for Richmond, South Windsor and Windsor
  • Wayfinding
  • Heritage trail and
  • Public art

Key themes from the engagement session included:

  • The region represents a rich tapestry of Australia’s Indigenous and colonial history, which will be important inclusions in the masterplan and public domain process
  • Translation of stories and themes into the masterplanning process to illuminate Indigenous narratives within the Windsor, Richmond and South Windsor will provide rich descriptions and ideas for the design
  • Embracing past Indigenous history is respectful to the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the area today
  • The acknowledgment and communication of the “contact era” is important. This refers to the first European settlement and corresponding 20+ years. 1798 was the first contact
  • The masterplan will recognise the continuous Indigenous connection to the Hawkesbury lands, waters and communities
  • The local places will become meaningful when able to tell its own stories which are distinctive of the history, people and culture
  • Collaborating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island elders and community will reveal the layers of tradition, stories of the Hawkesbury region and its first nations people
  • Connection is important – all areas of the Hawkesbury are connected and important to each other
  • Sandstone and shale play important parts of the Indigenous culture
  • Indigenous history and consultation should be woven into the final designs
  • The Revitalising our Town Centres project aims to reflect and preserve Indigenous history and culture
  • Integrating Indigenous history into the masterplanning will provide opportunities for Indigenous economic development and the Hawkesbury to become a cultural destination
  • Utilise knowledge of the local area for the naming of places – the towns have been created on top of significant landscapes
  • Ensure Cultural Heritage Assessments include appropriate “dig down” capacity (meaning to dig to lower levels during excavation activities than required) to capture the heritage in the local area
  • The descendants of the original Indigenous communities are still here, on land and connected. Keep this in mind when developing these plans
  • Open fire is important – it is how the Indigenous culture spoke to the spirit world

The Draft Master Plan and Public Domain Plan will be on public exhibition from Monday 3 August 2020 to Monday 31 August 2020.

Click here for more information. 

Header Image: Aboriginal hand stencils in the Hawkesbury district, BC HCCLS, Pictoral History Hawkesbury by Michelle Nichols