Project status: In Progress


How you had YourSay:

The Better Suburbs Statement was tabled in the Assembly on Tuesday 18 September 2018 by the Minister for City Services, Chris Steel, after being developed through a new model of engaging with the community – through deliberative democracy.

The Statement reflects the value the community places on the different city services provided by the government and identifies the efficiencies that could be drawn from this.

To develop the Better Suburbs Statement, there were three rounds of consultation:

  • Phase 1 – where the community was asked to provide feedback on city services
  • Phase 2 – we built on findings from Phase 1 to develop the Kitchen Table Discussion Guide to better understand the city servicing priorities that are important to the community and stakeholders
  • Phase 3 – a Citizens’ Forum of randomly selected participants from the community who worked together to develop the content for the Better Suburbs Statement.

The Better Suburbs Program continues with shared decision making about play space funding allocations being undertaken with a smaller community forum, which includes members of the Citizen’s Forum. At the first Citizen’s Forum, a participatory budgeting activity commenced to identify the allocation of 2018-19 Better Infrastructure Funding for play space infrastructure improvements in Canberra. This work continues in the upcoming weeks to finalise allocations.

We are looking at:

By 2030, we're heading towards Canberra being home to 500,000 people. Our suburbs will look and feel different and our city services will need to respond to changing expectations. How we use our land for housing and other purposes, move around our city, care for our environment and have services and space that allow us (and our animals) to be social will be different.

Decisions about our city services need to be made now for the future. They will have to balance community needs with being financially sustainable. This Better Suburbs Statement gives us a shared vision for city servicing in 2030, along with short term priorities that will lead us to this goal.

Most – but not all – city services are within the scope of the Better Suburbs Program. The services included in the program and the Statement are:

  • Domestic animal services
  • Construction and maintenance of footpaths and cycle paths
  • Construction and maintenance of roads
  • Parks and public amenity
  • Shopping precincts
  • Recreational facilities
  • Stormwater management
  • Street lighting
  • Traffic management
  • Trees and shrubs
  • Waste management

Your views are being used to:

Your feedback from Phase 1 and 2 consultation were used to present discussion topics in Phase 3, the Citizens' Forum.

The survey findings, Kitchen Discussion Guide feedback and Citizens' Forum discussions have contributed to the development of the Better Suburbs Statement.

The Better Suburbs Statement was drafted and presented by a Citizen’s Forum to the then Minister for Transport and City Services, Meegan Fitzharris, MLA on the last day of Forum proceedings. The Statement is now publicly released.

Weekend 1

Citizens' Forum

Day 1 - Saturday 21 July

The morning session was a bus tour where participants were exposed to City Services business activity firsthand. Commentary on the bus was provided by government officials and an open dialogue of Q and A was encouraged.

On return to the venue, the afternoon session allowed Forum members to consider their insights from the bus tour and a further presentation by Deputy Director General, City Services Division, Jim Corrigan.

View the full Day 1 agenda.

Weekend 2

Citizen's Forum

The Citizen’s Forum has reached the halfway point and the group continued to learn about the city servicing activities undertaken by Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS).

By the end of this weekend, they had explored their thinking about the facts, benefits and concerns about each servicing activity in the program scope. They went on to start identifying a vision for city servicing and develop some preliminary recommendations that will be further considered in the final weekend, as they develop the Better Suburbs Statement.

Day 2 - Saturday 4 August

The day started with a presentation on TCCS priorities and decision making by Ben McHugh, Executive Director, City Places and Infrastructure.

The citizens then spent the rest of the day building upon the knowledge learnt on the bus tour during day one of the forum. TCCS staff from 14 different business areas facilitated small groups discussions on the facts, benefits and concerns of the different business area. Insights were recorded on large boards, for the whole group to refer to in future sessions.

View the full Day 2 agenda.

Day 3 – Sunday 5 August

On arrival the group took part in a fun exercise to explore and understand the interactions between the business areas within the program, using colourful balls of wool. Executives of TCCS directorate shared typical business scenarios, whilst a small group of participants representing the 14 business areas used wool to show the connections being discussed. The end result demonstrated the complex network of relationships that occur within the city servicing functions to deliver outcomes.

To fulfill the commitment made about the results of the kitchen table conversations being shared directly into the Forum activities, a presentation was given by the Better Suburbs Project Lead, outlining the preliminary results of the kitchen table discussion guides. A final summary report will be developed shortly. If you would like to be kept updated on the program and the release of this report, please sign up for email updates.

In the afternoon, the group reviewed the material developed on Day 2 and started exploring a city servicing future vision. By the end of the session, the group had considered early recommendations for the Better Suburbs Statement and had begun work on writing the first part of the statement, using a shared document.

View the full Day 3 agenda.

The next days of the Citizen’s Forum are Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August.

Weekend 3

Day 4 – Saturday 18 August

In the morning, the group re-connected after the two week interval. To start, the forum spent time deliberating on how Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) should engage with the community into the future. People reflected on their experiences with government (both positive and negative) and considered what would make a great relationship between the ACT Government and the community.

Next, Ben McHugh spoke to the group about the overarching goal for the Better Suburbs Statement – to lead to a community centred approach to city services and an engaged and active community. He detailed the process for the Statement after the Forum, for the Statement to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly, and for action plans and reporting tools for each city service to be developed.

The group then deliberated to move closer to agreement on the recommendations for all of the 14 city service areas. Seven groups were formed to work on sets of recommendations of two city services each. These were paired as they had clear connections with each other. After further discussion and review of TCCS staff feedback from each of the city service areas, the groups spent the afternoon finalising their sections of the Statement.

Day 5 – Saturday 19 August

Play Spaces Forum

Ten new members joined the Better Suburbs Forum for the Play Spaces day. In the morning, Greg Mews from Urban Synergies Group made an inspiring presentation on the value of play spaces for children’s health and development and provided an overview of the health challenges facing the new generation due to decline in free and independent outdoor play. Owen Earl and Stephen Alegria spoke to the group about the current management of play spaces by TCCS and challenges with maintaining the relatively high number of play spaces across Canberra, many of which are ageing.

The group then heard from four community members that have coordinated petitions to the ACT Government. Elizabeth Hoyt from Waramanga, Nesh Nikolic from Torrens and Rollo Brett from Farrer have petitioned for play space improvements in their suburbs. Matthew Armstrong has petitioned for more fenced play spaces across Canberra. The forum members then spent time in groups reading and summarising themes from 17 community submissions provided to the Forum from stakeholder organisations.

Discussion led on to why play spaces matter to Canberrans. The forum then split into smaller groups to work on criteria for a range of possible spending categories for the $1.9 million in available funding. Some groups also worked on overall priorities for play spaces in Canberra and how the community and TCCS should work together in making decisions about play spaces.

Minister Fitzharris arrived at the end of the day. The forum members handed the draft Better Suburbs Statement to the Minister. Many forum members spoke about the value of their experience with the Better Suburbs Forum and how the group had worked together with respect and dedication to achieve the Statement. The Better Suburbs Statement will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly in the next few weeks, after which it will be shared on YourSay.

The group also provided an update on the play spaces forum and the deliberation so far. The majority of the forum members expressed interest in further work on play spaces to reach final agreement on a priorities framework for play spaces in Canberra and the allocation of funding. YourSay will be updated on the next steps in this process.

Play Spaces Forum

The Better Suburbs Play Spaces Forum has completed the allocation of $1.9 million to upgrade and improve play spaces across Canberra. This Forum trialed a new way of making decisions in the ACT, through participatory budgeting. The Play Spaces Forum:

• determined a Priorities Framework to help guide current and future play space funding decisions
• allocated $1,750,000 to play spaces improvements (to be delivered in 2018-19)
• allocated $150,000 to the development of a Play Spaces strategy (to be delivered 2019-20)
• made recommendations on how the ACT Government should work with the community in making decisions about play spaces into the future.

Play Spaces Forum meetings

The final (fifth) day of the Better Suburbs Forum was set aside for Day 1 of Play Spaces Forum on 19 August 2018. There were 45 participants, including Better Suburbs forum members and nine additional forum members with a personal perspective on play spaces. This day was facilitated by democracyCo.

A second Play Spaces Forum day (Day 2) was held on 22 September 2018 with 21 participants. A Priorities Framework was agreed and the allocation of $1.9 million into categories was finalised. This day was facilitated by Jacinta Cubis (

Four smaller panel meetings were then held in September and October 2018, each with up to 10 forum members. These panels made specific location and project decisions to spend the money that had been allocated into categories. The panel meetings were held on 26 and 27 September and 16 and 23 October 2018.

Information provided to Forum members

Forum Members received an Information Pack as background reading. 16 submissions were received from stakeholder organisations. These are available in the Document Library below. Day 1 of the Play Spaces Forum was about knowledge building. Participants analysed and deliberated on the 16 community submissions. Presenters on the day included: four community petitioners (available in the Document Library below); play space expert Greg Mews; and from TCCS management, Stephen Alegria and Owen Earl.

Reports from the Forum

A Community Report from Day 1 was developed by facilitators, democracy Co.

A Community Report from Day 2 was developed by facilitator, Jacinta Cubis.

A Decision Summary was developed by the Better Suburbs team.

Forum decisions

The Forum agreed on a Priorities Framework to guide play space decisions. These include prioritising play spaces near shops and other facilities, planning for equity across the city, setting targets for accessible and inclusive play and continuing to work in partnership with the community, especially children and young people.

The Forum allocated $350,000 to create new nature play spaces to enhance Eddison Park in Woden and Glebe Park in Civic, which will be designed in partnership with the community. These aim to add play value and enhance the experience for visitors to these parks. Natural play spaces provide creative and imaginative play experiences, using elements from the landscape, such as logs and rocks, to encourage children to climb, jump and explore.

The Forum also allocated $375,000 for five whole of suburb play reviews in Richardson, Warramanga, Torrens, Narrabundah and Higgins. A co-design process with residents from each of these suburbs will determine the best mix of play spaces to meet the needs of a diverse range of community members. Each suburb will receive detailed plans for one new (or re-built) play space and concept plans for the whole suburb. This is a new way of planning for play, looking holistically at a suburb rather than at one playground at a time.

$525,000 was allocated to amenity upgrades in 35 play spaces across Canberra, including shade, seating, landscaping, furniture and paths. These upgrades will improve the experience for a range of visitors, including children of all ages, adults, older Canberrans and those with disabilities.

The Forum allocated $500,000 to deliver essential work to protect the condition of 16 play spaces that are structurally sound but in need of refreshing. This work will extend the life of these play spaces by five to six years, and improve the aesthetics. Works will include repainting the equipment, replacing soft-fall mulch, replacing borders and repairing seating, decks and fences.

The Forum allocated $150,000 for the creation of a strategic plan for Canberra play spaces. It was determined post forum this will be most effectively delivered in the 2019-20 financial year to enable all of the insights from the delivery of play space work in 2018-19 to be captured in the strategic plan. (This released the $150,000 for 2018-19 to the construction of an additional nature play space in Farrer).

For more information on the the Priorities Framework, the budgeting decisions and details of play spaces to receive new amenity or refresh work, see the Decison Summary report.