Afghan Bazaar Cultural Precinct. Thomas Street Dandenong, Melbourne. Photography by Mark Wilson Photography, 2014

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Afghan Bazaar Cultural Precinct. Thomas Street Dandenong, Melbourne. Photography by Mark Wilson Photography, 2014

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Walker Street Artwork consultation at Dandenong Primary School. Photography by Mark Wilson Photography, 2014

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Afghan Bazaar Cultural Precinct. Thomas Street Dandenong, Melbourne. Photography by Mark Wilson Photography, 2014

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Irrespective of the fourth industrial revolution, agile communities, disruptors, the rapid sharing of ideas and the brave new world of meta-data one thing remains constant – that people need places to live and without people, places would simply be spaces.


In Greater Dandenong – located 35 kilometres south-east of the world’s most liveable city - understanding ‘place’ has become very important.


For a municipality recognised as the most culturally diverse community in Victoria and the second most diverse in Australia, the process of understanding place is even more important.


As Place Making practitioners in Greater Dandenong we have attempted to strengthen a ten year focus on highly visible pedestrian oriented environments by creating people places that have a strong staying power and reflect the aspirations and needs of diverse user groups.


A rigorous methodology has been applied to establish a consistent place making approach for the City of Greater Dandenong’s three Activity Centres (Dandenong, Springvale and Noble Park),  places that are each unique in scale, purpose and identity. 


In the last year Greater Dandenong has established a Place Making Framework, embedding place making principles in community consultation briefs and major projects. This approach has confirmed the value of involving local people in places planning and delivery.  This commitment to community stakeholders is most effective when consultation precedes design.  Creating space, time and responsive platforms to listen to the community, their connection to place and daily use of spaces has the characteristics of best practise.  Gone are the pressures to ‘sell’ or ‘convince’ the community of a benevolent design they are expected to adapt to, or embrace.  In its place is an open conversation about how is this place working now? what needs to be understood and retained?, what could be improved?, how do people use the place?, who is there and who is missing?, what is the underlying place story; and what is the level of place attachment?


From this process of listening and questioning comes a project brief with a vison informed by the community.  This process has been applied to a number of public realm investment projects including Stockmans Bridge, an award winning Afghan Bazaar Streetscape Enhancement, the Springvale Laneways Improvement Project, Walker Street Artwork commission and the Springvale Boulevard Project.


While this place based approach is being consistently rolled out, a parallel piece of strategic work to compile data and key facts is also occurring.

These include:

Places Scores – using a tool created by Kylie Legge (Places Partners)

Behaviour Mapping

Business Audits

Program Audits

Shade Audits

Pedestrian Counts

Together these provide a series of foundation measures that will be repeated every three to five years to track change over time.  They will capture the impact of combined place making efforts on the place itself and show how well it’s performing.


Understanding the attributes of a place and its people: including the social, political, environmental, economic and cultural dimensions has been a labour of love or some might refer to as ‘tough love’ process.  The work has revealed important facts which have been documented into a user friendly tool – an Activity Centre Profile for broad application.


The short easy to read format includes the demographic profile of the community, predicated changes in population, extent of cultural diversity, the places historical narrative, business vacancy and mix, transport, community and cultural attributes and the level and types of public and private investment occurring within those centres. 


The aspiration is that staff across Council will use the Activity Centre Profiles as a reference when making important decisions about key places and spaces.  In doing so it is expected initiatives will be more place responsive or audience minded in their decision making.  They are also an insightful tool for external consultants and are ideally suited to being included within project briefs.


Interestingly the process has blown the lid on the assumption that all communities have ageing populations. In central Dandenong the greatest expected population growth is in the 10-14 year old cohort, who will increase 110 percent by 2024.  This, in part, has led to the City of Greater Dandenong developing a Children’s Plan utilising UNICEF's Child Friendly Cities Framework and the Victorian Local Government Association Child Friendly Cities Charter.


New inter-department collaborations in 2016 have seen three major place making projects engage specifically with children in local schools to include their views and opinions on important decisions being made about public places and spaces.  Case studies are being development to emphasize the value of listening to the voices of young people.


Contextually the $290 million Revitalisation of Central Dandenong initiative is halfway into a 20 year commitment.  Springvale and Noble Park are also experiencing significant change through the removal of level crossings by the Victorian Government. The timing for a changed Place Making approach in Greater Dandenong is spot on.



Jenny Pemberton-Webb has over 20 years local government experience and was the City of Greater Dandenong’s first Place Manager.  Charged with implementing a series of diverse place making initiatives throughout central Dandenong in partnership with the state government’s $290 million revitalization, Jenny leverages her role to embed placemaking principles and involve the community in the planning and production of their spaces.


Backed with a Masters (Art in Public Spaces) Jenny continues working on a range of award winning initiatives that engage local communities in central Dandenong’s rapidly changing environment.



Grissel Walmaggia brings a wealth of community cultural development and public art knowledge with her into the role of Place Making Officer for two of Greater Dandenong’s Activity Centres – Springvale and Noble Park.  Grissel’s great commitment to embedding historical place and local narratives into placemaking and leveraging quality outcomes on major projects including street upgrades, interpretive signage roll outs and changes bought about through level crossing removals. 


Holding a Masters (Art in Public Spaces) Grissel’s work has been recognised through various state and national industry awards where her authentic approaches to community consultation have been widely applauded.



issue 2. summer 2016