Walgett’s Cultural and Community Pop-up Hub

  • 2023

  • Social Impact

Designed By:

  • ThinkPlace Australia Pty Ltd

Commissioned By:

Department of Regional NSW

Designed In:


Despite statistics and media coverage to the contrary, Walgett is a community of resilience and heart. Using place-based, human-centred design, ThinkPlace worked with the community. Together we helped build thriving relationships and the social cohesion and capital essential to economic growth and vocational outcomes.

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  • Applying a human-centred and place-based design approach to address current and future vocation and economic needs ensures Walgett's future is brighter than its past. Walgett is one of NSW's most disadvantaged communities with high rates of Indigenous unemployment, low rate of school and vocational attendance, a declining population, increasing welfare and a narrow industry base. Walgett can appear divided and closed along economic, racial and cultural lines. A lack of shared space that is 'owned by no one, shared by everyone' further amplifies the division of us & them and restricts the opportunity to connect and design together.

  • Focussing on community affiliations, ThinkPlace identified individuals that were connected by purpose but had weak social bonds. Using the co-design nature of the project, we connected individuals at the points where their interests intersected. Working closely with the Walgett Community Working Party Chair and their extensive network, we harnessed their passion for their community and together launched Walgett's Cultural & Community Pop-up Hub, in an abandoned social enterprise café (kindly donated by the building owner). Rather than fly-in/fly-out, we embedded a team in the community over four weeks, meeting the community on 'their terms, time and turf'.

  • Prototyping the future with the community, the Hub acted as a space 'owned by no one, shared by everyone'. Doing away with formal workshops and sticky notes, the community experimented with the space, from hosting pop-up art workshops, to community dinners, to yarns. We answered the design challenge without asking a single design question: we co-created the conditions for people to safely connect, build trusting relationships, explore ideas which generated the strategy and action plan. Six months after the project's conclusion, the community still maintains the space, building trusting relationships and responding to local needs and ideas.

  • Early in the project, we quickly realised that the proposed approach of activities would not survive the local context. At best, we would confirm what people already knew, without answering how to create the conditions for ideas and recommendations to take root. The Cultural & Community Pop-up Hub was a solution born from a conversation with a local Indigenous leader who wanted to establish a cultural centre in Walgett. We ran with the idea that by testing a cultural centre prototype, we could also learn more about the community, which would help inform the employment and vocational strategy. Embedded the community, we could attend local meetings, workshops, and events, as well as host our own engagement activities. This opened the conversation to a group that otherwise wouldn't engage with people outside their community. The design process allowed for the meeting of Indigenous knowledge and non-Indigenous ways to connect into a new path forward, drawing from the Indigenous meaning of Walgett: 'the meeting of two rivers'.