Community builds new all-ages playground in Port Kembla

When Grant White agreed to volunteer for Port Kembla’s “7-Day Makeover”, he thought he’d sign up for about two hours of volunteering.

Instead the Wentworth Street property owner ended up putting in about 40 hours of work last week, using his own machinery and construction background to join a number of other residents and business owners to build a new all-ages play area on Allen Street.

“We put a dry river bed in, which turned out fantastic, with rocks – which will be a nature playground for kids,” Mr White said.

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“We built seats, a bridge over the river, we put a big mound in and big logs and boulders, basically so kids can come and explore nature and have a bit of risk while they play.

The Port Kembla playground at Allen Street. Picture: ROBERT PEET

The Port Kembla playground at Allen Street. Picture: ROBERT PEET

“At the end the kids were all over it, climbing in the river bed, trying to walk and balance on the logs and it was quite rewarding to see that result.”

The 7-Day Makeover concept was designed by planning expert David Engwicht, who has used it to quickly transform towns in South Australia, Queensland and New Zealand. 

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Mr Engwicht said he developed the approach out of frustration with how long it usually takes to see change in community spaces.

He also said the hands-on, volunteer approach helped residents to form an emotional attachment to the space and ensured they would use it once works were complete.

Mr White agreed with the philosophy, saying he thought the community had “invested themselves” into the work on Allen Street.

“There’s a legacy attached to it, that I’ve never experienced before, and a sense of well-being,” he said.

There’s a legacy attached to it, that I’ve never experienced before, and a sense of well-being.

Volunteer Grant White

“I’ve never done any volunteering work, but to go down there and meet people I would never have met in my social circle or work was so rewarding.”

Mr White and his wife bought two shops and the above units in 2000 and have been waiting for the area’s much-anticipated revitalisation ever since.

“It was pretty derelict when we got there, and it’s taken 15 years for us to see people coming in and putting in the work,” he said.

“It’s opened my eyes up to how many new couples and families are actually really owning their bit of Port Kembla.”

“Everyone’s got each others’ back and have vested interests in making this a good place to be.”