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The Festival of Place

NSW Public Spaces Charter

Public space is where public life happens

Public spaces like our parks, museums, libraries and high streets connect us to our communities, bring us closer to nature, make us healthier and happier, provide places for celebration and help businesses to prosper.

The NSW Government exhibited a draft NSW Public Spaces Charter (PDF, 8748.13 KB) in October 2020. The draft Charter provides a commitment to quality public spaces for every community across NSW.

The Charter supports the Greener Public Spaces Premier’s Priority to increase the proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 minutes’ walk of quality green, open and public space by 10 per cent by 2023 and will ensure an ongoing commitment to quality public space in NSW.

The draft charter is also available in Arabic (PDF, 2993.22 KB) and Chinese (PDF, 3028.18 KB) and Vietnamese (PDF, 2898.26 KB).

What is the NSW Public Spaces Charter?

The draft NSW Public Spaces Charter has been developed to support the planning, design, management and activation of public spaces in NSW. It identifies ten principles for quality public space, developed through evidence-based research and discussions with public space experts and community members.

We want the Charter to be a tool that can be used by individuals, organisations and agencies that are responsible for public space. NSW Government agencies, local government, industry and other groups caring for and using public space across NSW will be encouraged to sign up to the charter and to apply the principles in their strategies and planning.

NSW Public Spaces Charter principles

Watch our NSW Public Spaces Charter video series introducing the principles:

The principles

1. Open and welcoming

Public space belongs to everyone

Public space is free, open and welcoming for people of all ages, genders, backgrounds and abilities to use and enjoy. It should be designed and maintained to ensure that it has the highest possible level of accessibility. It should be easy to get to by walking, by cycling or on public transport.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Open and Welcoming video.

2. Community-focused

Public spaces are where communities forge the ties that bind them

They are places for people to meet gather and interact. They support us to create the connections and experiences together that build shared histories and community and a powerful sense of belonging.

Public space allows for the expression of shared values, participation in public and civic life, and the celebration of all its diverse members. It should enable people and groups to engage in community activity that facilitates interpersonal connection and fosters the growth of mutual respect, understanding, empathy and compassion for one another.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Community-focused video.

3. Culture and creativity

Public space is where we share our stories and values

It has layers of history and memory that are deeply embedded and accessible. It helps us understand who we are, connecting the past with the present and inviting new ways of thinking. All public space is on ancient Country and should acknowledge and celebrate the profound and enduring culture of First Nations Australians. It should provide opportunities for cultural expression and for people of all backgrounds to connect to the history of their community, while feeling included in the shaping of its future.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Culture and Creativity video.

4. Local character and identity

Public spaces make us proud of where we live

Public space has character and identity that reflects and celebrates what is unique about its local community. They should be authentic, consistent with the physical form of their surrounding area and bring a sensitive understanding of what their community values and cherishes. They should be inclusive, capable of evolving and visibly representative of their community’s diversity so that all users feel pride, attachment and a sense of belonging.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Character and identity video.

5. Green and resilient

Public space can help us adapt and thrive in a changing climate

Public space that is softer, greener and more connected to nature can cool towns and cities, providing relief and respite and reducing the impacts of extreme weather conditions. It can provide a network of essential hubs that bring communities together and provide refuge and escape and build our capacity to withstand shocks during times of crisis.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Green and resilient video.

6. Healthy and active

Public space supports healthy lifestyles and refreshes our spirits

Public spaces should be easily accessible so we can build healthy activities into everyday life. They should be well connected to each other to encourage a culture of walking and cycling. They should include spaces and facilities for physical activities such as sports and recreation as well as tranquil places for sitting and relaxing. Public space should be fun and spontaneous, integrating elements of play for people of all ages, and offering both physical and mental health benefits.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Healthy and active video.

7. Local business and economies

Public space supports more dynamic and exciting local economies

Public space should connect people to businesses and support vibrant retail and hospitality precincts. Our streets, laneways and plazas should support the local and visitor economies by creating vitality through how they look and feel. Public space can host low-impact businesses and activities, such as food and retail outlets that make places more appealing and enjoyable.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Local business and economies video.

8. Safe and secure

Everyone should feel safe using public space at all times of the day

The design, management and programming of public space should create a feeling of safety, including pedestrian-friendly lighting, clear sight lines, and signage. They should give special consideration to the experience of women, children and vulnerable people in public space and their perceptions of safety. Activating public space at night and encouraging stewardship can help make them feel safer.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Safe and secure video.

9. Designed for people

Public space that’s flexible can meet the needs of our diverse population

Public space should be comfortable and fit-for-purpose, designed with an understanding of its function within its area so it can accommodate a broad and rich range of social activities. It should encourage formal and informal interaction and provide places and facilities that encourage people to stop and use the space. It should have complementary uses whenever possible and be well-connected to surrounding areas to provide a richer experience for its users.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Designed for people video.

10. Well managed

Public space is more inviting when it’s well cared for

Public space that is well-managed and cared for makes us proud, encouraging us to feel a sense of ownership and become stewards of the place. It should stay clean, well-maintained and appropriately lit; offer shade, shelter and places to stop and rest; and provide public amenities that reflect local needs. These spaces should be easy to get to and get in and, once in, should be easy to freely move around. Public space should have rules that restrict only those activities and behaviours that it must to ensure its safe management.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Well managed video.

Artist drawing of people in park and markets

Public Engagement

We want the Charter to reflect the community’s expectations and aspirations for public space.

Between 20 October 2020 and 1 December 2020, the draft NSW Public Spaces Charter was placed on public exhibition to seek feedback on the draft principles and to understand what support NSW Government, agencies, councils, and industry would need to become signatories to the Charter.

Over 190 individuals and organisations provided feedback on the draft Charter through seven workshops, the online survey, digital engagement hub and online/email submissions. This included representatives from NSW government agencies, local councils, non-government organisations, community, environmental and recreational groups.

We established a community panel of 14 NSW residents to review and provide feedback on the draft Charter. The panel's membership reflected the geographic, demographic, and cultural diversity of NSW.

A targeted program of engagement was also undertaken to ensure that Aboriginal people and communities could provide feedback on the Charter.

An engagement report has been prepared which summarises the key themes that emerged from the engagement and how the department will respond to these, as well as the next steps for the development of the Charter.

For more information

See the frequently asked questions (PDF, 91.32 KB) for more information about the NSW Public Spaces Charter.