Community Regeneration South Kempsey

South Kempsey NSW Australia

SJB was appointed by Kempsey Shire Council, Housing NSW and the Indigenous Coordination Centre in January 2012 as lead consultant to prepare a master plan and social plan (by sub-consultants GHD) for South Kempsey.

The community of South Kempsey, characterised by one of the state’s largest Indigenous communities, concentrations of public housing and an increasingly aging population, is separated from the Kempsey town centre by a number of physical barriers, including the Pacific Highways, Macleay River and railway line, which have limited access to local services and employment opportunities, and left the community feeling isolated. The social and demographic indicators tell the story of a community in need of considerable regeneration and support.

Faced with cultural, social, economic and environmental challenges, the South Kempsey community were open and eager to engage with the project through the program of consultation that included 4 trips to Kempsey and 10 days spent with the community over a 6 month period. Regular meetings were scheduled with the community leaders and elders, Councillors and Council staff, and the many stakeholders who are already undertaking exceptional work in South Kempsey. On several mornings the team stood on a street corner and before long an informal consultation was underway, with the local’s dropping by for a chat about their ideas for the future.

The objectives of the project were broad but significant, as they sought improvements to the well-being of the community and their environment through new public spaces, connections and development. It was the responsibility of the team to define how these objectives would be achieved, and most importantly, delivered.

It quickly became apparent that the client and the community wanted to see action, and not merely a masterplan that would sit on a shelf. As the ideas started to flow a short-list of potential project continued to grow. There was no shortage of inspiration and enthusiasm, so the team looked to gather as many projects as possible and arrange them into categories (short, medium and long term projects) according to their scope, deliverability, complexity and potential funding.

By the final community event a total of 34 projects had been identified, ranging from cultural awareness training, to drug and alcohol programs, new parks and landscape rehabilitation, and large scale cultural and infrastructure proposals. Each project was aligned with the Urban and Social Principles, which were defined during the preliminary analysis and consultation stages. A link was also made to the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) Closing the Gap Targets that were established as part of the Federal Governments 2008 commitment to improving Indigenous health.

The purpose of the masterplan for South Kempsey was to provide a framework for the 34 projects, one which was based on rigorous urban analysis and an urban design framework that outlined the open space and public realm, movement (pedestrian, cyclists, public transport and vehicles), and development strategies.

The illustrative masterplan reflected the 16 urban projects, configured as part of a singular gesture, despite the outcomes of project being focuses on a series of smaller deliverable interventions.

The team at SJB were conscious that the project must deliver tangible and recognised changes to the community, so during the 6 month program a number of small projects were delivered. These included a new basketball ring and backboard, and the local AFL team relocated to the once underutilised South Kempsey Oval, which now features goal posts and coaches boxes. Small but significant change for the people for South Kempsey.


Kempsey Shire Council, NSW Land and Housing Corporation, Indigenous Coordination Centre

South Kempsey, NSW

PIA NSW (nominated)

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