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The Festival of Place

NSW Public Spaces Charter

What is the NSW Public Spaces Charter?

The NSW Public Spaces Charter (PDF 3.3MB) 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.

The charter reflects and responds to consultation with diverse stakeholders including state agencies, councils, non-government organisations, community, environmental and recreational groups, as well as targeted engagement with Aboriginal peoples, including Elders, Knowledge Holders, representatives from Local Aboriginal Land Councils, councils, Aboriginal community organisations and professionals from the public and private sector. The NSW Public Spaces Charter Engagement Report (PDF 4.9MB) summarises the key themes that emerged from this consultation.

While we have developed the charter for use by anybody involved in the planning, design, delivery or management of public space, we encourage organisations and practitioners to become signatories to it. In becoming a signatory to the NSW Public Spaces Charter, an organisation or individual is showing a commitment to embed the 10 principles when they plan for, design, manage or activate public spaces.

NSW Public Spaces Charter Principles

Watch the video playlist or explore the 10 Principles starting with Open and welcoming.

10  Principles for public space in NSW

The charter identifies 10 principles for quality public space, to support all those who advocate on behalf of, provide advice on, make decisions about, or plan, design, manage and activate public spaces in NSW.

1. Open and welcoming

Everyone can access public space and feel welcome, respected and included.

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2. Community focused

Public space brings people together and builds strong, connected and resilient communities.

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3. Culture and creativity

Public space provides a platform for culture and creative expression that makes places more colourful, animated and thought-provoking.

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4. Local character and identity

Public space reflects who we are and our diverse stories and histories.

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5. Green and resilient

Public space connects us to nature, enhances biodiversity and builds climate resilience into communities.

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6. Healthy and active

Public space allows everyone to participate in activities that strengthen our health and wellbeing.

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7. Local business and economies

Public space supports a dynamic economic life and vibrant urban and town centres.

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8. Safe and secure

Everyone feels safe to access and use public space at all times of the day.

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9. Designed for place

Public space is flexible and responds to its environment to meet the needs of its community.

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10. Well-managed

Well-managed and maintained public space functions better and invites people to use and care for it.

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The values

The charter is also built on the following core values that resonate strongly across all the principles. These values should always be considered when applying the principles.

All public space in NSW is on Country, which is at the core of every Aboriginal person’s identity and sense of belonging. It is the place from which Aboriginal languages and cultures are derived, which determine families, kinship and communities. Aboriginal peoples are the Traditional Custodians of all public space in New South Wales. Acknowledging and valuing Aboriginal peoples and cultural knowledge when public space is planned, managed and delivered can promote and strengthen connection to Country and create healing for both Aboriginal communities and non-Aboriginal peoples too.

Watch the NSW Public Spaces Charter: Connecting with Country video.

Public space is a community asset that should support a society in which everyone can participate, prosper, and reach their potential. Inclusion in public spaces and in the processes to plan, design, manage and activate them is central to creating equitable public spaces and ensuring all people can access the benefits they provide.

Engaging the community as active participants in decision-making processes when planning, designing, managing and activating public space will help ensure that it reflects their values, needs and aspirations. Participatory processes, collaboration and co-design in public space projects help build trust, which then increases people’s use of and attachment to the space. Ensuring that vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities are engaged in these processes leads to more welcoming and inclusive public space.

Register to become a signatory and find out more

We have developed the charter’s principles for all individuals, organisations and agencies that are responsible for public space. We are encouraging all NSW Government agencies, local government, industry and other organisations and groups who care for and use public space across NSW to sign up to the charter and join us in committing to these principles for quality public space.

Signatories to the charter will have access to a community of practice, one-on-one advice and support from the Department for how the charter can be applied, as well as promotional and data sharing opportunities.

Register your interest

A practitioner’s guide is being developed to support signatories with more information and ideas about how the 10 charter principles can be applied when planning, designing, managing and activating public space. The guide will be released early in 2022.

For more information

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

If you would like more information about the NSW Public Spaces Charter or to understand more about becoming a signatory, you can email the Department at PublicSpace@planning.nsw.gov.au.