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UC contributes to Haig Park activations for second year running

Elly Mackay

19 June 2020: Haig Park in Canberra’s inner north will be a whole lot more vibrant this year, as the park looks to welcome Canberrans out of hibernation following the easing of COVID-19 lockdowns.

The Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra has re-signed a deal with the City Renewal Authority to support the re-activation of Haig Park through a series of experiments and temporary installations, following great success with the project in 2019.

Assistant Professor in Communication Dr Cathy Hope is the project lead and says she looks forward to recreating the success of last year’s activations, continuing to make Haig Park a great community hub as the city's 'backyard'.

“As we begin to move back out into society following the months of being at home, we want to work with the community to ease back into the public realm,” Dr Hope said.

“Even though we’re working with a whole lot of social distancing parameters this year, I think we can incorporate some of the more successful activities from last year and amend them so that they follow social distancing guidelines.”

In 2019, the City Renewal Authority commissioned a University-led consortium to deliver six months of temporary activations based on community aspirations for Haig Park.

The project was successful in significantly increasing use of the park, diversifying park users, and improving community perceptions of Haig Park.

With that in mind, the team behind the activations – which includes researchers from the University, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre, and the Tait Network – began work on appropriate activities to achieve those outcomes.

“We want to maintain the momentum that we achieved to create a great community space, working with the limitations of social distancing restrictions,” Dr Hope said.

Consortium members Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre and Dionysus Cultural Development have come together again to "design a program that assists community members to re-enter public spaces in a way that they're comfortable with".

“We are going to continue to build community in the social media space and by designing small to mid-scale safe activities with and for the community.”

To mark the beginning of the 2020 activations, Indigenous recognition signage was installed in the park as part of Reconciliation Week earlier this month.

The signage acknowledges the United Ngunnawal Elders Council Charter, and cultural interpretation of the park will allow users to understand the significance of connected sites.

Dr Hope says the inclusion of these features is an opportunity to highlight the Ngunnawal connections to country.

“The University’s Elder in Residence Aunty Ros is the Ngunnawal cultural guide for the experiments, and together we helped facilitate the United Ngunnawal Elders Council vision for the park.”

“We also worked with Wally Bell who did the cultural interpretation of the park – so there are four signs installed that will help people understand the significance of Sullivans Creek, Mt Ainslie, Black Mountain and of course Haig Park itself.”

The partnership with the City Renewal Authority will continue through 2020.