I recently visited Nambucca Heads and surrounding towns to facilitate community meetings for a significant local road project. I had the opportunity to take a walk to the mouth of the river, past the break wall. Anyone familiar with Nambucca Heads will have seen the incredible series of hand painted rocks.
I found myself enjoying the rocks as much as I enjoyed the view and got to thinking about what a clever, grassroots community project it was. The rocks told stories of love, grief, family, milestones and adventure. It was a rich mosaic of the things important to people who live and visit the picturesque sea side town.
I love the idea of this continually evolving artwork that welcomes the input of locals and travellers alike, to create a proud statement of place.
The project feels like it has taken on a life of its own. Seemingly self regulated, where people pick faded rock artworks and renew them with commemorations, proclamations and exclamations.
I’m not sure where the idea started, but to me the success of this community project is worth reflecting on. It works because the community have taken full ownership, it requires minimal ongoing support from any governing body and it is cost effective. It draws people in without any visible signage or rules, it somehow intuitively speaks to people about how to participate.
How can you replicate this outcome if you have a project where delivering a sense of community or place is important?
- Can you provide a space or place that community can choose how it should reflect the community?
- Can you find ways for people to participate individually or in groups they choose, like as a family, or friends, or local group?
- Is it flexible as to when people can participate?
- Can it continue long after you’ve gone?
The rocks tell a meandering story about the place and why it is important to so many people. Some rocks have a long history, others are new, but all tell a shared story of the place and its importance in people’s hearts.