Precious: Restored and New Relationships
Sustainability theory and models have not recognised the power and value of culture until recently at the 2002 United Nations World Summit when Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, acknowledged the need for culture to be the fourth pillar of sustainability.
Precious places and people together with precious resources form the basis of sustainability as we strive to restore connections between societies and environments. Through sustainable activities new relationships are being formed, contributing in an unprecedented way to local and global interconnectedness.
Cultural sustainability theories will be explored in Precious together with the pivotal role culture plays in the functioning of communities, particularly at a local level.
Two recent Australian case studies will be discussed in this paper, Sites of Contemplation (a project of Fairfield City Council in South- Western Sydney) and Paved Paradise (a project of Hurstville City Council in Southern Sydney). Kirsten Davies, the author of this paper, was the consultant employed to manage and facilitate both projects on behalf of the Local Government Authorities.
Sites of Contemplation united ten different religious institutions located in Bonnyrigg, a suburb of Fairfield. Buddhists, Moslems and Christians all discussed themes and concepts they have in common. This community has a large percentage of new migrants to Australia with 45 countries of origin represented. This project demonstrates, through the global microcosm of Bonnyrigg, mutual respect and a collective will to reach positions of consensus despite differing ethnic origins and religious beliefs. Their combined visions and themes are translated into three public art projects for the Bonnyrigg Town Centre Park by three local artists. The process of consultation and the artist’s schemes was carefully documented and will be outlined together with images at the presentation.
Generational change is the core of Paved Paradise, the second case study. The project empowered young people through listening to their ideas about shaping public spaces. The City of Hurstville is evolving as a major regional hub within the Greater City of Sydney. This project tracked consultations with young people who may be marginalised for a variety of reasons including differing ethnic backgrounds. Four visual artists were employed on Paved Paradise to assist the young residents in the presentation of their visions at a public forum attended by influential planners such as the State Government Architect, who designed Sydney’s footprint for future growth.
The value of activities such as these two case studies at the local level helps to understand the role of culture within global frameworks, as these precious and intricate environments are the places which implement sustainability on the ground in all its forms.
Keywords: Restored and new relationships, Cultural sustainability theories, Two recent Australian case studies, Religious difference, Young people, local government implementation
Dr. Kirsten Jane Davies
Director, Consultant, Kirsten Davies and Associates Consultants
Kirsten graduated from art school in 1979, she practiced as a painter and art teacher for many years living on a farm on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga.
The City of Wagga Wagga took a courageous leap in the nineties and resolved to build a new cultural and civic centre in the heart of the city. Kirsten was fortunate to have been appointed as The Manager of Cultural Services with Wagga Wagga City Council in 1997, a position that included managing the Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery (and its National Art Glass Gallery), The Museum of the Riverina and the Civic Theatre. During this period she become aware of the need and value to communities of cultural policy and was appointed as a member of the New South Wales Governments Community Cultural Development committee for a period of five years.
In 2002 Kirsten was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to research specialist museums in Japan, England and the United States of America. This provided a valuable understanding of the importance of museums with defined directions and collections.
She has become increasingly interested in sustainability and how arts and cultural activities fit into whole community pictures, completing a Masters Degree in Sustainable Management at the University of Sydney in 2004. Kirsten was awarded a Sydney University Scholarship to further her research into cultural sustainability over the next 3 years (2005- 2008) as she works towards a doctorate.
Kirsten is now living in Sydney and working as a consultant in the area of cultural policy, programs and projects for all levels of government.