To foster healthy, creative, culturally rich and socially connected communities this District Plan recognises cultural richness and diversity as one of Greater Sydney’s key strengths. Strong social connections are key to these strengths and a foundation of resilience and healthy lifestyles among the District’s residents. To support and deliver these outcomes a multi-faceted and place-based approach is required to focus on the local inter-relationships between healthy, creative, culturally rich and socially connected communities.
Healthy and active lifestyles
Research identifies three key aspects of the built environment that support healthy lifestyles and improved health outcomes: strong social connections, physical activity and access to fresh food4. Consequently, the design and management of streets, places and neighbourhoods are essential to improved mental and physical health outcomes. These aspects of a healthy built environment are important preventative responses to the incidence of chronic lifestyle diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. This is important as around 49 per cent of the adult population in the Central City District are overweight or obese5.
Walkable streets that provide direct accessible and safe pedestrian and cycling connections from homes to schools, daily needs and recreation facilities can encourage greater physical activity and social connection. Delivering fine grain urban form and local mixed-use places can provide better access to local retailers of fresh food, together with opportunities for people to participate in arts, recreation and cultural activities.
Connectivity of, and access to, diverse open spaces and opportunities for recreational physical activity are also essential to improved mental and physical health outcomes. Sport and active lifestyles provide many social, cultural and health benefits. The Office of Sport is working in collaboration with key partners, including councils to develop a Sport and Recreation Participation Strategy and a Sport and Recreation Facility Plan for each district during 2018 and 2019. The plans will include local and regional sport facilities, that provide a strong foundation for participation in sport and active recreation.
Greater Sydney, like many global cities, has a diversity of people from differing socio-economic circumstances and a range of social, cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. This cultural richness brings to the region a wide array of skills, languages, cultures and experiences. It gives identity and distinctive character to Greater Sydney’s neighbourhoods and centres. As the District grows and changes, supporting social connections, and cultural and creative expression will build resilience through understanding, trust and neighbourliness.
The District includes social housing estates in places like Mount Druitt. Targeted local responses to address spatial variations in socio-economic disadvantage across the District are required, particularly in neighbourhoods that experience greater disadvantage. This includes creating communities where social housing is part of the same urban fabric as private and affordable housing, has good access to transport and employment, community facilities and open spaces which can therefore provide a better social housing experience.
The Central City District is home to people from many cultural and social backgrounds. Forty-seven per cent of residents in the District are from 206 countries including India, China, Philippines, South Korea and New Zealand. As a result, 50 per cent of the District’s population speak more than 200 non-English languages in their homes. This is substantially higher than the 40 per cent average across Greater Sydney6.
The top four languages other than English are Arabic (11.8 per cent), Mandarin (11.7 per cent), Cantonese (7.5 per cent) and Hindi (6.6 per cent).
In Cumberland Local Government Area, 69 per cent of people speak 153 languages other than English. Arabic is the most commonly spoken language other than English in the local government area. In Parramatta Local Government Area, residents speak 147 languages other than English with Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean being the most commonly spoken languages.
The Central City District is home to refugees from many parts of the world. Blacktown, Cumberland and Parramatta local government areas are declared Refugee Welcome Zones and each council has made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into communities and celebrating their diversity of cultures. For example, Blacktown has become a hub for support services and amenities for many Sudanese settlers, with churches and organisations such as SydWest Multicultural Services playing a supporting role.
A diversity of housing types provided through urban renewal, local infill (such as missing middle) and new communities in land release areas supports the many household types and different community needs (refer to planning Priority C5).
Place-based planning in the District’s culturally diverse neighbourhoods utilises engagement that recognises the different ways people participate (refer to Planning Priority C6). Many councils have targeted approaches that consider specific linguistic or other needs to support greater participation. A better understanding of people’s social and economic aspirations and specific needs achieved through engagement and participation, enhances inclusion and identifies culturally appropriate responses to local needs, to deliver improved health and wellbeing outcomes.
The District’s Aboriginal people, their histories and connections to Country and community make a valuable and continuing contribution to the District’s heritage, culture and identity.
Supporting Aboriginal self-determination, economic participation and contemporary cultural expression through initiatives such as the development of culturally-appropriate social infrastructure, will strengthen the District’s identity and cultural richness.
The District contains landholdings acquired under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 where Local Aboriginal Land Councils can work towards planning outcomes that will help support self-determination and economic participation.
As this District Plan is implemented, engagement with Aboriginal communities will be founded on self-determination and mutual respect, and to foster opportunities for economic participation, culturally appropriate social infrastructure and contemporary cultural expression.
Supporting creative enterprise and cultural expression
Cultural expression and creative expression promote understanding of people’s experiences. Place-based planning will build on the District’s artistic, heritage, cultural, volunteering and creative strengths.
Co-locating artistic and creative organisations will support creative enterprises and precincts. This requires planning for multi-functional and shared spaces with opportunities for artists and makers to live, work, exhibit, sell and learn locally.
Cultural diversity is celebrated by the communities of the Central City District and includes cultural events and celebrations such as NAIDOC Week, National Reconciliation Week, Parramasala, Tropfest, the Arab Film Festival, the Orange Blossom Festival, the Lunar New Year Festival, the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Africultures Festival, the Country Rocks Festival at Bella Vista and the Maltese Folkloric Festival.
The District’s artistic and cultural experiences are supported by:
- arts and cultural facilities such as Cumberland’s Peacock Gallery, Granville Regional Arts and Community Recreation Centre (due for completion in 2019), the Blacktown Arts Centre, Parramatta Riverside Theatres, Parramatta Artists’ Studios, Form Dance Projects, Western Sydney Dance Action, the Museums Discovery Centre, Sydney Olympic Park and Parramatta public art trails, Rouse Hill House and Farm, Elizabeth Farm and local public libraries
- open spaces and recreational facilities such as Parramatta Park, Lake Parramatta, Blacktown International Sportspark, Auburn Botanic Gardens, Bicentennial Park and the parklands of Sydney Olympic Park, Bella Vista Farm Park, Balcombe Heights Estate and Castle Hill Showground.
Creative and cultural expression are also a hallmark of innovation, and innovation underpins the productivity of a 21st century city. Creative industries – a core element of an innovative economy – have a growing role in the District’s productivity, with creativity, entrepreneurship, technical ability and collaboration being essential skills for the future workplace.
Support for a range of creative enterprises and opportunities for cultural expression will expand arts and cultural institutions, and encourage audience and artist participation. Locations to consider for creative industries and cultural enterprises may include underutilised mixed-use areas, ground level commercial or declining high streets. In particular, providing better and more opportunities for creative industries to collaborate with health and education can facilitate local innovation.
The NSW Cultural Infrastructure Program Management Office is working with Infrastructure NSW to develop a cultural infrastructure strategy, which will include strategies and actions for Greater Sydney. Continued investment in the arts, screen and cultural sector attracts a skilled workforce and encourages innovation in other sectors.
Local cultural and arts networks such as those that centre on facilities like the Parramatta Artists' Studios recognise that place-based can develop local artistic and creative culture. However more facilities to support arts and culture are required in the Central River and Western Parkland cities to balance opportunities across the three cities.
The District’s cultural vibrancy is reinforced by night-time activities from popular eat streets, clubs and small bars to cinemas, arts and cultural activities. Stimulating and diversifying the nighttime economy in appropriate locations across the District can support local economics and culture. This can generally occur in mixed-use centres with adequate noise control, locally appropriate operating hours and safe late-night travel options.
Greater use of the public realm for temporary uses, and vacant or under-utilised commercial spaces for arts, events and creative uses can support activation of places and encourage participation. Investigation of options to reduce the regulatory burden for arts, creative and temporary uses as well as the night-time economy is needed for regulations to be commensurate with the activity. This may require measures such as simplifying development approval processes or increasing the application of exempt and complying development provisions to these uses.
The provision of arts and creative spaces in areas experiencing significant urban renewal will further support local identity and innovation.
Supporting social connections
Many educational and community facilities, social enterprises, community initiatives, clubs and sporting organisations and facilities connect people with one another. These social connectors help foster healthy, culturally rich and networked communities that share values and trust and can develop resilience to shocks and stress.
Grace’s Place is a residential recovery centre for children traumatised by homicide, to be built in Doonside on land made available by Blacktown City Council and the Western Sydney Parkland Trust. The project is a leading example of how government and community can collaborate to support local communities.
The multi-faceted nature of social networks and connections are illustrated in Figures 5 to 8. These maps illustrate concentrations of some key social connectors in and around some local centres, which provide opportunities for people to connect with one another. They include:
- social infrastructure such as community and neighbourhood hubs, sportsfields, clubs and courts, men’s sheds, pools and leisure centres
- education facilities like child care, schools, TAFEs and universities as well as libraries
- sharing spaces like community gardens, co-working spaces and car sharing
- street life and meeting places including live music venues, farmers’ markets and high streets and eat streets.
Stronger concentrations of social connectors are indicated by larger dots. The maps illustrate examples of centres where place-based planning can enhance existing community connections and provide a focus for strengthening and adding new social connectors. Focusing on building social connectors in tandem with universal design will help to improve individual and community health, inclusion and participation outcomes.
Lifelong learning facilities and libraries provide valuable opportunities to continue education and connect with others in the community. Digital connectivity is also emerging as key to building broad and diverse communities of interest that can cross traditional spatial boundaries.
These social connectors are a major element of the characteristics on which the local identity and distinctive functions of centres are built. For example, street life is particularly evident in the centres of Parramatta CBD, Granville, Auburn and Merrylands.
In the Central City District, places with high concentrations of social connectors are characterised by:
- access to trains or high frequency bus routes
- cultural and economic diversity
- high levels of volunteering
- high provision of social infrastructure
- access to education and learning
- walkable town centres or eat street
- diverse housing mix (density, tenure and affordability).
Place-based planning to enhance social connections within and across communities should focus these activities at the heart of neighbourhoods and in local centres to enhance social and economic participation. This co-location of social infrastructure with daily needs and other services helps build connections.