Returning Royal Park to the community and the importance of public ownership

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A new playspace has opened up in the heart of Melbourne’s city and on much loved ground……the historic Royal Park in Parkville.

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Everyone has loving memories of this park, be it a trip to the zoo, a sports match or picnic. Indeed my own father spent many hours in this park as a boy when he lived in a nearby boarding house during his primary school years and I once attended a ‘star gazing’ session here with the Melbourne Astronomical Society.

Great expectations had been placed on this project, all of which it lives up to.

The rebuilding of the Royal Children’s Hospital had meant that the Department of Health was to return the land on which the old hospital stood to the people of Melbourne and return it, it has. Still only in its infancy (having been officially opened only a week) the park though still pristine, already looks lived in….a very good sign! What struck me even more than the beautifully and engaging design was the sense of commitment and ownership shown from everyone involved in the project, right down to the parks maintenance staff who each morning as well as diligently cleaning and caring for the park, find branches and natural materials to strategically place within the play environment for children to discover and play with!

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For children living in small inner city apartments or houses with little of no garden, this park is a godsend. Sure its not as random or risky as bushland or an adventure playground, but it endeavours to provide an open-ended structure which over time will allow for different things to happen.

I listened as the local park ranger talked about the importance of kids in cities (and in fact all over) to have the freedom to climb trees and I smiled….at last they’re getting it.

Many congratulations to both the Department of Health and the City of Melbourne for taking the initiative and the risk and going with it. Not everyone will agree, but this is important work for the future of our kids, by inspiring parents, designers and councils alike.

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