Planning public spaces for growing and diverse areas

Fairfield City Council

Fairfield City Community Facility and Open Space Needs Study and Fairfield City Open Space Strategy

Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdowns highlighted inequities across Sydney and the value in quality public open spaces close to homes. This is particularly important in a place like Fairfield City – one of Australia’s most culturally diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged local government areas.

Within the next 20 years, the Western Parkland city is going to change dramatically around the future Western Sydney Airport. Planning for this change begins now to ensure that there are adequate community facilities and open spaces to support the community.

Between 2019–2020, Cred completed three place-based Community Facility and Open Space needs studies for Cabramatta, Fairfield and Parks Place, which culminated in a city-wide Needs Study and Fairfield City Open Space Strategy.

Working with Environmental Partnership and GLN Planning, the Open Space Strategy built on the Needs Study to develop a comprehensive and deliverable strategy to guide Council’s delivery and management of open space over the next twenty years.


Our approach

A key part of the Needs Study was to understand local community needs from the Community themselves. The challenge was to design an engagement program that made sure to reach out to typically hard-to-reach communities.

In order to Design an engagement program that ensured the views of typically hard-to-reach communities were sought, our approach included:

  • running over 15 multi-lingual pop-ups outside town centre shops, in parks, outside busy train and bus stations, in shopping centres and at community events where Vietnamese, Assyrian, Arabic, Chaldean, Cantonese and Mandarin was spoken
  • facilitating workshops with community services, community leaders and regular uses of community facilities to understand the needs of service provider clients and regular hirers
  • hosting interactive and fun focus groups with people with disabilities and newly-arrived young people, responding to the high proportion of people with a disability in Fairfield City, as well as the high proportion of newly-arrived refugees who have settled in the LGA
  • delivering a Cabramatta ‘Night Walk’ with diverse community members to understand use and access to community facilities and open spaces in the evening
  • developing online interactive workshops to understand the community’s use of the creek lines for recreation and the community’s perspectives on greening the city
  • developing a community wide survey and discussion guide to understand community needs for open space and community facilities
  • working collaboratively with Council staff to build capacity internally and also ensure that recommended needs and actions were achievable for the community.

The outcome

Engaging with so many diverse community members, community service providers and Council staff taught us much about planning for facilities and open spaces in highly culturally diverse communities.

Through Cred’s findings, we learnt that culturally diverse communities want to use parks and open spaces into the evening – they provide an opportunity to exercise after work, or socialise and enjoy dinner outside with family and friends, followed by a walk. This means that the idea that ‘parks go to sleep after dark’ needs to be turned on its head through interventions such as creative lighting to support increased use.

Engaging with newly-arrived young people also taught us about the importance of open space for healing and mental health. We also learnt that many low-income families living in high density can’t afford prolonged air-conditioning or fans, meaning that public space is their respite. People want free opportunities for water play and more shade in public spaces. With increasingly hot summers, public open space can become the ‘cool rooms’ of the city.

Our work laid the foundations for the Fairfield City Community Facility Strategy (developed by Council), with Cred’s Needs Study and Open Space Strategy helping guide Council decision making and planning, including recommendations for open space acquisition and rezoning based on customised criteria.

We also created an open space embellishment guide to create standards for levels of park embellishment, and our work on provision rates of community facility and open space will translate into Council’s developer contributions plans.