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It’s hard to believe that a project that felt so tough and emotionally tiring (at the time), is now up for an award, and has financial commitment.

Moreland City Council has prioritised $2,804,745 within its current five-year Capital Works Program to deliver elements of the Hosken Reserve Masterplan, and has identified future funding streams to ensure the masterplan is delivered in its entirety.

The development of the masterplan saw community unrest, sports club pressure, political interest and more than 1,000 pieces of community feedback. Despite all of this, the resulting masterplan will create a long term solution for a growing sporting organisation, while ensuring that a growing community will also have access to quality open space. 

It’s fair to say this project did not get off on the right foot, funding was stopped in its tracks by community campaigning, and the community called bluff on a line in Council’s application citing community consultation. Exactly a year on, after a decision was made, Councillors continued to ponder this project, weigh up the options and do their own research. They overturned their original decision and made (I believe) a better decision (also a suggestion by many community members on both sides). 

At its 13 April Council Meeting, Councillors proposed a fifth option to officer recommendations, which will see an unloved space in an industrial area activated, allowing a club to bring vibrancy to it, without disrupting residential peace. It provides valuable open space for community use, while relieving some of the conflicts currently experienced with sport at our back door.

Conversation Co Director and Project Lead, Cindy Plowman, said it was important to work with all stakeholders and the community to achieve a far better outcome. “By working with these specialist agencies, together we were able to achieve an outcome far greater than if we were working alone. We were able to design a process that matched the information needs of the masterplan, while making sure the complexity and process was easily understood by the community”.

 Learnings and Reflections

  • Partnering with technical experts the CommunityCollaborative and Pollen Studios was absolutely fabulous, so many robust conversations created a strong design solution. The value of a professional debrief! 
  • Starting from scratch would have been easier. We were tasked with ‘refreshing’ an older masterplan that didn’t have community acceptance and made it tougher to engage.  
  • Making sure there is ample time for community participation is always best practice when facing outrage, making sure there is ample notification time (frequency too), time for consideration and acting. The community often jump to conclusions that Council is hiding something when processes are rushed. There is always the next Council Meeting cycle to aim for, in the end we extended the consultation period at community request. Allowing ample time from the start would have been friendlier. 
  • Documenting the process and record keeping. I kept everything, so I was able to demonstrate where information had come from, why someone was selected in the working group and so on! The project was subject to a Freedom of Information request. 

My remaining project pondering is how can our practice allow time for ‘slow thinking’ or ‘change of mind’? We push Councillors for a decision, usually after three 30 minute briefings, when we get to spend countless hours listening and considering the project in detail. 

We are always open to working with technical advisors and other consultants that are as eager to create thoughtful processes for the community and care for clients. We would love to hear from you here.


About Cindy Plowman

Cindy, our Director and Chief Visionary Officer, has extensive experience working in community and stakeholder engagement, delivering programs across a wide range of government and non-government organisations. 

She is adept in both community and urban development sectors, undertaking social infrastructure planning, engagement, research, analysis and evaluation. Cindy is effective at building understanding and creating a narrative that creates favourable experiences within communities. She enjoys building trust with the community who are then more inclined to give their precious time to participate in projects and process, rather than go directly to media.

Conversation Co

Conversation Co proudly acknowledges and celebrates First Peoples of Australia and their ongoing strength in upholding some of the world's oldest living cultures. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands throughout what is now Victoria – where we live, conduct pop-ups, and engage with our communities – and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present. Conversation Co acknowledges First Peoples' sovereignty has never been ceded. The strength, resilience and pride of First Peoples, their cultures, communities and identities continue to grow and thrive today despite the impact of colonisation and ongoing experiences of racism.

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