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Case Study: Aboriginal Interpretive Playspace for Shellharbour Civic Centre 


The Project

Shellharbour City Council developed a plan to revitalise the rear of the civic centre, creating a vibrant and enjoyable space for the community to enjoy. 

Previously, the area at the rear of the council building was a plain and underutilised space, however it was perfectly positioned in a quiet spot backing onto public parklands. This made the area an ideal location for a children’s play area. 

With a strong focus on bringing the stories of Dharawal country to life, the Council team engaged Simpson Landscapes to help create a calming play environment using modern materials to tell ancient stories, with Preferred Turf looking after the supply and installation of softfall playground surfaces. 

How We Helped

Working with Shellharbour City Council, Simpson Landscapes and Consultants and other key stakeholders, the Preferred Turf team provided professional advice and support to ensure the end result would be safe, inclusive and aesthetically pleasing.

The natural surroundings and the City’s rich Dharawal Aboriginal cultural history are reflected in the new modern playspace design. To improve the sense of place and connection for individuals of all ages, abilities, and cultural backgrounds, the area embraces the inclusive design concepts in the NSW Government’s Everyone Can Play guidelines.

Named “Yirran muru” meaning “many pathways”, the space aims to take visitors on a cultural journey following the footsteps of local Aboriginal people from the escarpment to the sea.

Using colourful, hard-wearing Surface Designs Rosehill TPV in custom colours, we were able to highlight the natural textures of the surrounding landscape. Amongst the features are  Burri Burri, a four-metre hand-carved timber whale, and a timber canoe that invites imaginative play across the blue expanse of Jubborsay (Lake Illawarra). Merrigong (the Illawarra escarpment) is represented in sandstone, natural logs and soft fall rubber, connecting visitors to the story of Gang man Gang.

Colour-matched TPV rubber was laid in the bottom of the canoe play piece, ensuring a soft landing for children as they let their imaginations follow the current.

The Challenges

With no straight lines and a design made entirely of organic forms, our installation team was challenged with accurately transferring the design from concept to reality.

Our experience in delivering high-end playgrounds for council, commercial and educational clients was evident in the quality finish and precision installation, resulting in which ensured minimum disruption to nearby businesses and residents.

The Result 

The Aboriginal Interpretive Playspace project has created a hidden gem for Shellharbour residents, tucked away in the natural gardens behind the Civic Centre. The custom rubber design highlights the surrounding landscape of Lake Illawarra, local flora and fauna, and of course, the rich stories of the Dharawal Aboriginal people. 

Julia Kaul, Development Contributions Planner for the project is thrilled with the unique interpretive play space.  

“I am so proud to have been part of this project,” reports Julia. 

“It is the most amazing space without a single piece of mass-produced plastic play equipment in sight. Instead, we have a unique space that tells the unique story of the Illawarra. It goes to show what can be achieved when people are passionate about what they do.”

If you would like to transform your underutilised council spaces into vibrant community assets, get in touch with our professional team of skilled and experienced professionals.

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