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The Adelaide Parklands Symposium:
A balancing act: past - present - future

Friday 10 November

UniSA, City East Campus: Basil Hetzel Building, Mutual Community Theatre H2-02 (off Frome Road)

Co-presented by:

ORDER FORM for Symposium Proceedings

Click here for a copy of the summary of the day delivered by James Hayter

Full program

Papers delivered at the Forum on Sunday 12 November are available here

Elizabeth Ho, Director of the Hawke Centre speaking at the launch of the Proceedings on 10 November 2006:

There are three main benefits in having these Proceedings.

Records are too often taken for granted. Online information is one thing but an in-depth perspective is quite another. These Proceedings offer much depth for current and future benefit, being the sifted and considered results of collective research in sixteen individual studies.

Many including Kaurna Elder Lewis O'Brien have welcomed the focus in this volume on Kaurna connections with country, and specifically the Park Lands, including continuing spiritual practices. This is an important appreciation.

This volume is a testament to the work of so many in preserving the Park Lands over time. The depth of analysis is not simply conjuring up a past reality, it is drawing on continuities. Indeed, it is the value of what the Park Lands have represented over time that has spurred Adelaide people of successive generations to preserve and protect them. Without that determination these Proceedings would be the poorer.

The Symposium was opened by Allan Holmes, Chief Executive of the Dept of Environment and Heritage.

The organisers are grateful to Planning SA for their generous support towards the published proceedings which will be made available and launched at the Symposium.

Program Summing up - James Hayter, Oxigen

A common aim of the papers given today is to explore some of the meanings and attitudes towards the Adelaide Parklands. Some of the presentations are descriptive: that is, they attempt to show how attitudes towards the Adelaide parklands have evolved through time. Some are also prescriptive, suggesting ways in which our current awareness might be heightened and more finely tuned to the environmental and cultural needs of the landscape as it relates to our current understanding. All of the presenters would agree with the general proposition that we should become more sensitive to the special needs of the Parkland’s unique landscape, but general agreement probably ends there. We have different prescriptions, different diagnoses of the past, some of them primarily cultural, some economic and the majority of them environmental.

It is not surprising that there are differences of opinion. It cannot be assumed that we know a great deal either about what our community sees or about the forces that have shaped the way they look at the world. The Parklands themselves are varied in their appearance, functioning and use. There is no typical landscape, but many different landscapes held together within a statutory boundary. The formal landscape of Palmer Gardens is not much like the native bushland of Park 23 at the top of Anzac Highway or the landscape of the Adelaide Oval. The population of Adelaide will see a great variety of different places, in different ways, at different times, any one person sees the same place in many different ways in the course of a day.

Part of the difficulty is that we are not always clear what we should be looking at and what is important in a particular time and in a particular place. The only real understanding we have is our own. We guess what others think from what they say they experienced, what they record, what they omit, how they behave. Poetry, painting, old films, advertisements, City Council minutes and newspapers, are all records, but they all need interpretation – early colonial pictorial artists drew the indigenous flora and fauna, topography, the local Kaurna people, in certain ways, partly because of current drawing styles popular at the time and partly because of the function of their work. It is hard to interpret other peoples understanding, it is harder to make useful statements about those as they relate to a community.

We think of a camel as a creature created by a committee. Our discussion today might be considered a kangaroo- it is easy to feel good about, despite it jumping all over the place. Much of what was talked about in this symposium was indigenous – the topic, the participants, the locale – but a good deal also was not, including the comparative focus and the sense that the Adelaide Parklands are worthy of much greater international appreciation and indeed protection.

Different viewpoints are an inevitable and perhaps a desirable accompaniment of gatherings such as this. Presenters preparing papers in isolation and with little time for afterthought, are unlikely to reach cogent joint conclusions. In fact, they were encouraged not to do so. The purpose of this symposium was not to contrive a consensus, but to explore manifold insights. Multifarious and often conflicting ideas about the Adelaide Parklands landscape and the attitudes to it emerged, insights drawn from history and geography, science and behaviors, and the special perspectives of planners and ecologists, State and local government agencies, poets and artists. The common themes that can be teased out are not so uncommon if we consider them in the context of experience in other places concerned with similar themes.

One is Amenity and Sustainability. There are two particular polarities that stood out as persistent themes: man and nature, and the conflict between amenity and sustainability.

Contemporary urban life is complex and, with it, the role of urban space has changed. For those happy to experience their days and nights on the internet, there is less need now to actually use open space other than a conduit between one place and the next. Phil Bagust argued that we should see the Parklands as an opportunity for enlivening the quality of our lives by active participation and experience. Sheryn Pitman reminded us of the limitations the landscape itself imposes on our active uses and the importance of treating the Parklands as a sustainable resource.

The second common theme concerns Environment and Heritage. A positive sense of the past is an essential but somewhat neglected aspect of environmental appreciation. Many Australians seem to prefer to forget history than to celebrate it, because nothing in Australia seems old, interesting or virtuous enough to be historic. Uncle Lewis O’Brien, Rhondda Harris, Rob Emery and Lester-Irabinna Rigney reminded us of the rich indigenous tradition inherent in our landscape and a consciousness of continuity and presence of local heritage.

The historical traces evident in post colonial settlement were chronicled by Donald Johnson, Roy Montgomery, Alan Hutchins and Robert Freestone. Their contribution adds to the urgent need for preservation and public education programs. The uncovering of the past and the precedents for what we experience now presage a lengthening but increasingly unpredictable future. Many of us here will agree with George Seddon’s argument that planning and design are central to Adelaide’s future. To know its history is the basis on which good planning and design can be achieved.

To stress these common themes, however different the participants’ views about them are, would give a false general impression of the symposium. Heterogeneity not homogeneity, catholicity not unity, variety rather than uniformity, featured in presentation and discussion, tone and content. Not all presenters seemed to be willing to recognize the multiplicity of the different values which are ascribed to the Parklands and, still more, to accept the potential validity of them all. And, we shouldn’t ask them to do so. Attitudes ranged from admiration of the multi-layered and all-inclusive use of the Parklands to the focus on a single value and its presence above all else. The subject matter was multifarious: trees and playing fields, olive production and bush regeneration, tourism and facilities management, all the sciences and arts of environmental activities and contemplation.

We can expect that each presenter will stress his or her specialty, however, we learned little about how he or she viewed the everyday view of the Adelaide Parklands by, if you like, the common man and less about what other, mainly non-reflective, Adelaidians made of their experience there. We heard advocates of preservation and of limited carefully controlled development, of elite, and of popular, visions, but each of us is at various times a resident and a traveler, a conserver and a polluter, a mystic, a seer, a poet and an artist, now environmentally aware, now oblivious. It is the combination of all these amateur and professional roles that may one day yield an environmental and cultural consensus for the Parklands.

Presenters were particularly alerted to the interaction of local and environmental ideas. But we vary enormously in how far we are prepared to accept our perceived transplanted or indigenous landscapes. A combination of indigenous and imported now becomes natural, and, expected, although we are still, in the words of George Seddon, learning to see our own land and to forgive it for not being England. A compensatory nationalism may deliberately favour the indigenous.

The most we can expect is to share a common mood: a sense of being on the road to a mutual destiny and of being able to influence that destiny. This is the more noteworthy considering the recognized constraints – the fragility of ecosytems, the push from some to utilize the parklands to their full potential, defined of course in a variety of ways, and the necessity of large scale government planning.

There are 4 questions we have to continually ask ourselves and the answers to these will enable us to reflect more deeply on our own attitudes, and our own ability to represent them to the Adelaide community.

Let us continue to think through these questions, grateful that there are those willing to contribute, as those who have presented today have.

James is a Director of Oxigen, practising landscape architects and urban designers. His experience in practice and teaching extends over a 25 year period and includes the realisation of many of Adelaide’s designed places which we are familiar with.

James was the former Principal Landscape Architect for the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra, responsible for the design and management of Canberra’s open spaces, including the Parliamentary Triangle. The Parliamentary Triangle is one of Australia’s most loved, studied, planned and commented on public spaces, not only by Australians, but by visitors from overseas.

James is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects and current Vice President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects. He has assisted the Adelaide City Council over the last two years in the preparation of the master plans for each of the parks comprising the Adelaide Parklands which have been included within the City’s Community Land Management Plans.

Program (copy of abstracts) *



8.00am - 8.55am Registration
9.00am - 9.30am

Kaurna Welcome
Uncle Lewis O'Brien
Welcome on behalf of the City of Adelaide

The Right Honourable, the Lord Mayor, Michael Harbison
Welcome and Official Opening

Allan Holmes, Chief Executive, Department of Environment and Heritage

9.15am - 11.00am Opening plenary session
Chair: Bronwyn Halliday, Executive Director, Planning SA
  The Adelaide Parklands: past-present-future
9.30am - 10.00am Rhondda Harris: 'The Aboriginal Location' in the Adelaide Parklands (1837-1851)
10.00am - 10.30am Patricia Sumerling: Activities in the Park Lands over time
10.30am - 11.00am John Senior: The intrinsic value of parks
11.00am - 11.30am Morning Tea
11.30am - 12.30pm Parallel sessions
Chair: Margaret Anderson, History Trust of SA
Parallel sessions
Chair: Kevin Lowe, Adelaide City Council
  Historical background through texts and maps Looking at landscapes past and future
11.30am - 12.00pm Donald Johnson: Foundations for Adelaide's Park Lands Sheryn Pitman: Sustainable landscapes: working with our semi-arid land in changing times
12.00pm - 12.30pm Roy Montgomery: The Adelaide Parklands: framing a settlement Phil Bagust: Parklands of opportunity: a possible biodiversity, sustainability, education and tourism future for the Adelaide Parklands
12.30pm - 2.00pm Lunch 
During the extended lunch break, there will be two brief presentations about Adelaide Parklands design studio projects to be displayed at the Symposium.  Additionally we are hoping to offer a walk to the site of a parklands reclamation project off Frome Road and near to the Symposium venue.
2.00pm - 3.00pm Parallel sessions
Chair: Stephen Hamnett, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Natural and Built Environments, UniSA
Parallel sessions
Chair: Leanne Liddle, Aboriginal Parks and Wildlife Co-ordinator, Aboriginal Partnerships Section, Department for Environment and Heritage
  Planning history and the Adelaide Parklands Cultural significance: Indigenous and European perspectives
2.00pm - 3.30pm Alan Hutchings: A Speculation: the Adelaide Plan and the Spanish Laws of the Indies Rob Amery and Lester-Irabinna Rigney: Recognition of Kaurna cultural heritage in the Adelaide Parklands: a linguist's and Kaurna academic's perspective
2.30pm - 3.00pm Robert Freestone: Contribution of the Plan of Adelaide to modern town planning theory Kelly Henderson: History and myth: the origin of Colonel William Light's 'Park Grounds' and their universal value
  Marco Amati: Ascribing changing values to suburban green spaces: the inception of Wellington's green belt David Jones: Uncovering heritage merit and significance: assessing the cultural landscape of the Adelaide Park Lands
3.00pm - 4.00pm Afternoon tea
4.00pm - 5.00pm Closing plenary
Chair: Stephen Forbes, Director, Science and Conservation, Department for Environment and Heritage
  Stirring thoughts for the future
4.00pm - 4.30pm George Seddon: Adelaide's alter-ego
4.30pm - 5.00pm Trevor Nottle: The past and present as essential exemplars for the future
5.00pm - 5.15pm Symposium roundup: James Hayter: Oxigen
5.15pm - 5.45pm Closing session
5.45pm - 7.00pm Informal drinks and launch of proceedings

This program is subject to change at any time.

Lunchtime presentation

Jen Smit, Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Design
In the first half of 2006, student’s undertaking the urban design theory and practice elective at UniSA’s LLS School of Architecture and Design, practised a technique of ‘tissue grafting’ to generate a series of hypothetical scenarios for the future of the Adelaide Parklands.

A teaching technique originally developed at the Joint Centre of Urban Design, a research centre at the Oxford Schools of Architecture and Planning, ‘tissuing’ or urban tissue grafting, provides a rapid and provocative strategy for exploring the potential of sites. The students were encouraged to select tissues, not only for their ability to best fit with the more likely projected Parkland uses, but for the ability of the resultant grafts to promote discussion and critique.


The academic leadership and management for the Symposium is being provided by Dr Christine Garnaut, Research Fellow in the Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Design. An historian, her research focuses on the planning, design history and heritage of planned twentieth century places. She has a particular interest in the application of planning history to planning and heritage policy. Much of her work lies at the nexus between the disciplines of planning and architecture and the contribution of both to academic, professional and community action.

Adelaide Parklands Tours – Saturday 11 November 2006

A series of walking, coach and bike tours will take in aspects of the Parklands.


* Registration form and abstracts available in PDF format – Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view and print. You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe.


South Australian Government in particular
Department for Environment and Heritage
Planning SA
Capital City Committee
Adelaide City Council logo

While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy – valuing our cultural diversity – and building our future.

* Registration form and abstracts available in PDF format – Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view and print. You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe.

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