Who we are

'The Power of Public Spaces to Connect Communities and Places' project is funded through an Australia Research Council (ARC) Linkage Research Program grant (LP210200796). It involves an interdisciplinary team of academic and professional investigators led by Brook Wharton (Transport for NSW) and Professor Donna Houston (Macquarie University).  The project is also supported by an Expert Advisory Panel comprising local, national and international experts across government, placemaking, public space, architecture, planning and academia.

About the project

The project adopts an innovative model of government-university-community collaboration to investigate, discuss and co-create new approaches to public space design, management, and use. The social benefits will be to better understand how public spaces positively contribute to place-based social connectivity in ways that can mitigate the negative impacts of current challenges.   

Our project asks why Australian public spaces are important, the difference they make in our lives and how their value is changing and evolving. This website is where the project team will share ideas from communities, academics, policy-makers and big thinkers on the changing role of place and public space in Australia. It is aimed as a resource for anyone thinking about, planning, creating, studying or using public spaces.  Over the next three years the website will be regularly updated with research, stories, interviews and events.

Project aims

  • to better understand diverse community connections to public spaces  
  • to consider how public spaces can mitigate the impacts of pandemics and a changing climate   
  • to investigate, discuss and co-create new approaches to public space design, management, and use 
  • to promote Indigenous leadership in place design, place-making and caring for Country 
  • to increase cultural and community benefits by making public spaces more inclusive  
  • to use this website to support awareness, advocacy and systems-change around public spaces planning and use.  

Project Leads

Project Lead for Macquarie University

Professor Donna Houston

Head of Discipline, Geography and Planning

Project Lead for Transport for NSW

Brooke Wharton

A/Executive Director, Cities Revitalisation and Place

Macquarie University Team

Professor Kate Lloyd

Professor, Geography and Planning

Dr Miriam Williams

Senior Lecturer, Geography and Planning

Dr Justine Lloyd

Senior Lecturer, Sociology

Dr Harriet Narwal

Postdoctoral Fellow, Geography and Planning

Nerida Carter

PhD student, Sociology

Bronwyn Rennex

Creative Consultant

Transport for NSW Team

Ashlie Hunter

A/Director, Place and Public Life

Drew Pinazza

Director, Streets and Centres, Cities and Active Transport

Alice Goldsmith

Senior Manager, Planning, Place and Public Life

Expert Advisory Panel

  • Abbie Galvin, Executive Director, NSW Government Architect, NSW Department of Planning and Environment  
  • Adrian McGregor, Founder and Chief Design Officer at McGregor Coxall 
  • Alex O’Mara, Director, Sustainable Solutions Advisory Pty Ltd 
  • Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon, NSW State Librarian
  • Dillon Kombumerri, Principle Architect - Office of the Government Architect NSW
  • Elle Davidson, Director of Zion Engagement and Planning | Aboriginal Planning Lecturer at University of Sydney 
  • Ethan Kent, Co-founder of PlacemakingX 
  • Fiona Morrison, Commissioner Open Space at Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
  • Henriette Vamberg, Partner and Managing Director, Gehl Architects 
  • Dr John Hunter, Co-Chair, Murama Cultural Council | Jarara Indigenous Education Unit 
  • Professor Kurt Iveson, Professor of Urban Geography at the University of Sydney 
  • Lindy Deitz, General Manager, Campbelltown City Council 
  • Dr Lucas Ihlein, Artist | Senior Lecturer in the School of The Arts, English and Media, University of Wollongong 
  • Ludo Campbell-Reid, Urban strategist | City planner | Urban designer 
  • Madeleine Scully, Manager of Community Services, Wagga Wagga City Council 
  • Michael Rodrigues, 24-Hour Economy Commissioner, NSW Government  
  • Dr Nidhi Gulati, Social impact executive | Human-centered design practitioner 
  • Professor Susan Thompson Professor of Planning, School of the Built Environment and Associate Director (City Wellbeing), in the City Futures Research Centre, UNSW 
  • Dr Vanessa Berry, Writer | Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Sydney 
  • Professor Xiaoqi Feng, NHMRC Fellow in Urban Health and Environment at UNSW 

Partners and Funders

The Power of Public Spaces project is a collaboration between Macquarie University and the NSW government. It is funded through an Australia Research Council (ARC) Linkage Research Program