Take Your Place Elizabeth Grove Primary School. Photograph by Phillippa Church, 2016.

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Take Your Place Elizabeth Grove Primary School. Photograph by Phillippa Church, 2016.

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Children and young people are perhaps the most intensive users of public places within any City.  They play, learn and socialize in local parks, streets, schools and shopping centres.  This interaction with multiple places shapes their experience of the place they live in.     


However it is well known that the way in which communities use public spaces can change as a result of the rules and regulations applied by government bodies, threats to safety and the reliance on cars due to the distances between school, home and work.  Sometimes, people don’t feel like they are ‘allowed’ to contribute to or use public space or believe it is someone else’s job such as local government to make great places.  This can result in the neglect of spaces, a loss in the sense of community and well-being and reduced support and friendship from neighbours.  


In South Australia, two groups - Place SA and the City of Onkaparinga have been developing placemaking tools for children and young people to develop an understanding of how public spaces can be developed to meet the needs and aspirations for all ages within the community and also to help students determine the roles they can play in shaping public spaces now and into the future.  




Place SA is a volunteer committee made up of people from a broad spectrum of professions and sectors including planning, architecture, design, arts and place making.  It was formed to inspire ongoing discussion, debate and activities that explore concept of place.


Earlier this year, Place SA launched the Take Your Place toolkit for teachers teaching place and liveability of the Year 7 Geography Curriculum. The unit investigates these concepts through the students’ ability to critique their own experiences of place and exploring whether the liveability of place can be improved through planning. Take Your Place aims to introduce the placemaking concept into students and teachers thinking by emphasising the role young people play in the role of city making.  The resource is a placemaking toolkit with initiatives ranging from school talks through to running a community project by focusing on four key areas:

1. Sharing Place

Students develop three minute videos exploring what makes a place great.  These videos comprise an online video library for peers highlighting the positive elements of place, and the subsequent benefits good quality public spaces provide

2. Seeing Place

Students visit interesting places in their community and discuss what components of the space make it appealing and what elements don’t work

3. Talking Place

Students are provided with opportunities to hold conversation with planners, architects and placemakers in the classroom setting.  

4. Creating Place

Student led placemaking projects.




The Take Your Place initiative was recently launched at Elizabeth Grove Primary School in the City of Playford - a suburb close to the Holden manufacturing plant due to close in 2017. According to the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Playford has an Index of Disadvantage level of 695, making it one of the most underprivileged and underserviced areas in the country[1].


Given the intrinsic connection between the socio-economic circumstance of place and the wellbeing of community, the Elizabeth Grove Primary School faculty has deemed it crucial that students explore the Place and Liveability topic across multiple channels - through literacy, mathematics and geography programs.


The concepts of place and liveability are explored at the school through actively providing opportunities for students and teachers to research and provide input on how to shape the school’s facilities. This has been imagined through a nature play area, a dedicated kitchen, and an indigenous garden. 


Place SA visited the school to talk with students about the role place plays in shaping their experience of a City.  Students were encouraged to consider their favourite places and to reflect on what the physical and emotional aspects were that made it their favourite place.  The talk also shared with students simple examples of placemaking activities such as art and music.  It prompted conversation amongst the students on what other changes they could do within their school grounds and potentially in their neighbourhoods.  The key outcome from the visit will be some short films made by students on their favourite places and will be shared in an online gallery on the Place SA website.    




This year, the City of Onkaparinga partnered with Wirreanda Secondary School as part of the schools Year 9 Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Problem Based Learning (STEM PBL) program.


The STEM PBL program is designed to engage Year 9 students in problem solving with a real-world context which focuses on issues that typically impact students and their broader community.  During this course, students are encouraged to refine, define and solve specific real-life issues. The issue presented to the students to solve this year was, “How can you activate a space in Morphett Vale which is usable, sustainable and accessible to everyone now and in the future”?


The collaboration between The City of Onkaparinga and Wirreanda Secondary School was initiated based on the mutual agreement that placemaking and place-led approaches to problem solving was a great opportunity for students to engage deeper with concepts of place connection, and would appeal creatively to students. For the City of Onkaparinga, this collaboration presented an opportunity to test the organisational Placemaking Strategy and its ability to be interpreted and implemented by community.


Council staff spent time with students explaining and demonstrating the three elements that form the foundation of the City of Onkaparinga’s approach to placemaking; shaping, managing and activating. In addition, students had access to key staff from areas such as urban design, community connections, open space and public art.


At the conclusion of the program, students will develop a solution to their issue and present it to a panel of teachers, experts and elected members.


It is hoped that this experience will assist to build relationships between the City of Onkaparinga and local schools and contribute to the development of a framework to further educate students and community members on placemaking, place-led approaches, and how these processes can be used to solve local issues and encourage active citizenship amongst our young people.


[1] Census of Population and Housing: Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), 2033.0.55.001 Dataset, Statistical Area Level 2, ABS, Australia, 2011. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/2033.0.55.0012011?OpenDocument



BELINDA MARSH is the Placemaking Officer for the City of Onkaparinga.  Using her behavioural science and human resources background, Belinda works with staff to build their placemaking capability so that projects and programs can be delivered using a place-led approach.
SARAH MADDOCK is a Place Leader with the City of Charles Sturt.  She has a passion for public spaces and also chairs the Place SA Committee.
LUIS LAFOSSE is a Town and Strategic Planner with the City of Playford.  He is currently a Place SA Committee Member and Australian Institute of Urban Studies (AIUS SA) Board Member.

issue 2. summer 2016