Reality Bites: A Case Study in Rural Australia

Fiona Harrisson
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This paper focuses on a case study of two remote rural towns in regional Victoria. Rainbow and Jeparit are two small agricultural towns in decline in rural Australia: a microcosm of larger global trends affecting rural towns. These towns have seen steady population losses and reduced services as a result of the trend toward larger farms run by fewer people. The local Council sought urban design recommendations on the future development of the towns. This case study is the outcome of the submission, which was won on the basis of the project being carried out as part of a design studio within RMIT University. While community service is part of the University’s brief, there is a lot of rhetoric around community engagement, which remains theory within the walls of the academy. This paper will track the process and outcomes of a community engagement process, which involved the University entering a practice relationship with the community and Council. The project proposal had to be able to be built but they also had to stand up to academic scrutiny. The paper argues these outcomes were achieved as the result of the relationship between three divergent perspectives of practice, University and local community.

The Rainbow/Jeparit project brought people from diverse experience and different perspectives together (students, academics and local community members). These differences, in some cases conflicting, pushed the project beyond conventional Landscape Architectural practice to an outcome that the paper describes as “beyond the sum of its parts”. It argues that the crossing between practice and learning enabled quite powerful and specific project outcomes. While the communities of Rainbow and Jeparit were exposed to what the paper describes as lateral thinking where students were keen to challenge embedded assumptions and to think out side of the square. The students in turn learnt in an environment that highlighted the messy aspects of community consultation and the impact of population decline on people’s lives.

Keywords: Practice, Design, Teaching, Learning
Stream: Aesthetics, Design, Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Fiona Harrisson

Faculty of Constructed Environment, RMIT University
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ref: H06P0546