RMIT Landscape Architecture students are contributing design work to an exciting initiative in Melbourne’s west through a partnership with City West Water.
Greening the West is about enabling sustainable, liveable, healthy communities through urban greening. The initiative was created by a network of non-government organisations and state and local government authorities including City West Water and Parks Victoria.
As part of the project, 16 RMIT students are undertaking a design studio project to develop landscape proposals for the City West Water treatment plant in Werribee West, located within the Werribee River catchment.
Students will apply a regenerative landscape approach in their designs for the industrial site, working with other institutional and community stakeholders and taking into account issues of health and wellbeing, environment and the economy.
Landscape architect and academic Jock Gilbert said that the project was a great example of the way that the landscape architecture discipline at RMIT proactively engaged with industry partners.
“Projects like this give students a first-hand experience of the complexities and potentials of their work as well as creating knowledge through research relationships,” he said.
Third year student Nhat Nguyen said the design studio provided a chance to engage with real problems and work with the local community.
“This was an opportunity to see how my work as a landscape architect will be able to make a real difference in the world beyond the University,“ he said.
To get a better understanding of the community and catchment, students participated in a guided walk led by Werribee River Keeper and chair of the Werribee River Association, John Forrester, a passionate advocate for initiatives that protect communities, ecosystems and water quality.
Representatives from Parks Victoria, Nature West, Wyndham City Council, Zoos Victoria, Greening the West and City West Water joined students on the walk.
The connection of the site to the local community was reinforced prior to the walk, when the 16 students and 50 other stakeholders enjoyed a lunch provided by Nature West and prepared by members of Werribee’s Karen (Myanmar) refugee community who maintain a flourishing kitchen garden on Parks Victoria’s Werribee site.
Parks Victoria and Nature West have been working together to provide opportunities for members of the Karen community to develop skills and embark on careers in food production and catering.
City West Water and Greening the West Liveability Officer, Darren Coughlan, spoke to the students about the importance of factoring the community into their approach to the site.
“Along with helping to restore vegetation, any plans for the site should continue to provide social connections to the land, including for our refugees,” he said.
Students were able to discuss their proposed projects with the many stakeholders on site, gaining valuable experience of real-world conditions.
Philippa Perry, a recent RMIT graduate in Environmental Science now working as a ranger for Parks Victoria was able to provide great insight into controlled fire regimes in native vegetation in semi-urban areas as well as discussing the transition to work from study.
Story by Karen Phelan