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 food3. 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 58 per cent of the adult population in the Western City District are overweight or obese4.
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 space and opportunities for recreational physical activity are also essential. 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. In the District, this diversity and richness is reflected in places such as Cabramatta, Fairfield, Katoomba, St Marys and Windsor, which are associated with unique historic and cultural identities.
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 in places like Minto, Airds, Bradbury, Claymore and Bonnyrigg. 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 Western City District is home to people from many cultural and social backgrounds. The District is home to more than 320,000 people from 195 countries including Vietnam, Iraq, England, New Zealand and India. As a result, 36 per cent of the District’s population speak one of more than 200 non-English languages in their homes5.
In Fairfield Local Government Area, 74 per cent of people speak one of more than 140 languages other than English. Vietnamese and Arabic are the most commonly spoken languages in the area.
In Liverpool Local Government Area, 56 per cent of people speak one of more than 158 languages other than English. Arabic and Vietnamese are the most commonly spoken languages in the area. This compares with Hawkesbury and Wollondilly local government areas, where six per cent of residents speak around 70 languages other than English.
The Western City District is home to refugees from many parts of the world. Blue Mountains, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Liverpool and Penrith councils have declared their areas as Refugee Welcome Zones and have made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into communities and celebrating their diversity of cultures.
A diversity of housing types such as 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 W5).
Place-based planning in the district’s culturally diverse neighbourhoods utilises engagement that recognises the different ways people participate. Many councils have targeted approaches that consider specific linguistic or other needs to support greater participation (refer to Planning Priority W6). 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.
Fairfield settles post-war boom, migrants and refugees
The development of housing in Fairfield for the post-WWII baby boom and immigration resulted in Fairfield’s population increasing from 27,000 in 1948 to 120,000 in 1979. The area continues to grow with the 2016 census showing the population of Fairfield as just over 200,000.
Most migrants and refugees were settled in Australia’s largest hostel in Villawood from 1949 and in the Cabramatta Migrant Hostel from the 1950s to its closure in the mid-1980s. The location of families, communities and supporting services, means many migrants and refugees continue to settle in Fairfield.
The number of migrants in Fairfield has grown significantly in the past three years with more than 9,000 refugees – about 50 per cent of NSW arrivals – settling in Fairfield. Such an increase corresponds to an increase in the need for infrastructure and services including transport, schools, health and community facilities, and recreation.
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 aims 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. Supporting creative industries is important as the District contains economically significant hubs of creative industries in places in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains Local Government Areas.
Cultural diversity is celebrated by the communities of the Western City District and includes cultural events and celebrations such as NAIDOC Week, National Reconciliation Week, Cabramatta Moon Festival, Fairfield Multicultural Eid Festival, Warragamba Dam Fest and Blue Mountains Winter Magic and Music Festivals.
The District’s artistic and cultural experiences are supported by:
- arts facilities such as Penrith’s Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery and Lewers Bequest, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Norman Lindsay Gallery, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Campbelltown Arts Centre
- cultural facilities, including the Hawkesbury Regional Art Gallery and Museum, and Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub
- open space and sports facilities including Penrith Stadium and sports fields at Liverpool, Campbelltown and St Marys.
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 workforce6.
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 under-utilised mixed-use areas and ground level commercial, or declining high streets. In particular providing better and more opportunities for creative industries to collaborate with health and education can also facilitate 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 investments in the arts, screen and culture sector attracts a skilled workforce and encourages innovation in other sectors.
Local arts networks such as those that exist in the Blue Mountains and those that centre on facilities like the Hawkesbury Regional Art Gallery are encouraged, recognising that place-based approaches 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 the three cities.
The District’s cultural vibrancy is reinforced by night-time activities ranging from popular eat streets, clubs and small bars to cinemas, arts and cultural activities. Stimulating and diversifying the night-time economy in appropriate locations across the District can support local economies 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.
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, sports fields, 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; car sharing
- street life and meeting places including live music venues, farmers’ markets, 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.
Social connectors are a major element of characteristics on which the local identity and distinctive functions of centres are built. For example, street life is particularly evident in places like Cabramatta, Penrith City Centre and Katoomba.
In the Western 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 / 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.