Regenerating the West; A tale of two workshops 


    By Dominique Hes (with help from Jane Toner and Elena Pereyra)

    This month Elena Pereyra and I have collaborated to share the story of two community workshops held over the past month, focused on revitalising areas of the inner west. Both were part of the National Sustainability Festival.

    The first workshop explored how applying regenerative principles to the restoration of the Footscray Hospital could contribute to enriching its immediate urban neighbourhood and beyond. 

    To demonstrate the opportunities for breathing life into valuable community infrastructure, the workshop began by looking at the concepts from the recent Living Future Institute Australia competition to revitalise the heritage-listed Board of Works building in Sunshine North. Each concept explored retrofitting the brutalist building to enhance the surrounding living systems, while celebrating the community and its history. 

    Inspired by these innovative concepts, participants envisioned a new role for the Footscray Hospital site as a place to address affordable housing for all. Regenerative thinking elevated this concept, imagining the site as a vital part of a housing innovation precinct, regenerating the health of the community and urban fabric. Workshop participants imagined a community-led approach and adoption of community-focused housing models such as cooperative housing, community land trusts, and cohousing to support new forms of housing tenure and financial participation. To get involved see links at the end of this article.

    The second regenerative workshop focussed on ways to reimagine Braybrook’s Ashley Street as a welcoming thoroughfare for ‘active’ modes of transport. 

    Ashley Street passes under the railway line near Tottenham Station running north to the Maribyrnong River, and is noisy, smelly, constricted, accident prone and hostile to pedestrians. It is acknowledged as a crucial element within the State’s strategic cycling network and a vital link for local connectivity.

    A group of around 30 people from different cultural backgrounds, aged from 3 to 65, gathered to participate. We walked the street, discussed local issues and dreamed forward to envisage what could be.

    Photos: Dominique Hes

    The walking part of the workshop gave participants the embodied experience of the current challenges and opportunities. The walk began at Tottenham Station and ended at the offices of Green Collect who hosted the Community Design Visioning facilitated by Regen Melbourne.

    We listed the current issues, aiming to provide a reference point for assessing progress over the next decade. Following that, we collectively dreamed 10 years forward to what might be. We imagined a vibrant, living corridor, supporting biodiversity, connecting creek to river, an active transport link, a tram, fabulous cafes, restaurants, trees, workspaces, children playing, ample seating, and opportunities for inclusive, active community engagement. We thought this could grow from a small intervention of new traffic lights near the 7-11, more inviting east-west connections between shops and cafes, and more street trees. From there we moved to bigger things like a tram, dedicated cycling and walking paths along with alternative north-south routes for cars and buses.

    Photos: Dominique Hes

    Rounding off the workshop, Bike West hosted a screening of Together We Cycle to demonstrate how cycling culture manifested elsewhere.

    We are excited by the potential of both projects and look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to make them a reality. 


    • share hospital ideas:
    • join community: 
    Dr Dominique Hes is the Zero Building Carbon Lead at the City of Melbourne. Dominique mixes theory and thinking, with doing and testing to discover how we can best contribute to the well-being and thriving of place, people and planet.

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