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Waverley Council’s Draft Cultural Plan is Out… Will it be a Game Changer?

By Gemma Deacon and Susan McHattie on June 18, 2020 in News


Bringing our local community together.

As Waverley residents, what do we expect from our local council when it comes to culture? Many of us only really pay attention to the Council when it’s about bins, parking, or DAs. But the Council has many ways to stimulate the cultural and creative fabric of our local area, making Waverley a vibrant and exciting place to live.

A best practice cultural plan should bring our local community together, provide access to spaces for expression, and harness the creative capacities of local residents. Other councils are building flourishing cultural sectors that are active, inclusive, and locally driven.

And there is clearly a desire within Waverley to improve what we have on offer here.  Last year our community provided substantial input into this plan, and expressed our need to be active participants in the creation and consumption of our cultural life.

So how does this draft plan stack up? Here’s our take on where they’ve hit and missed the mark.

It starts well. The 4 Values or principles should provide a framework for everything in the plan.  We love the first three – Ambition, Collaboration and particularly, Sustainability. We’d add Responsive and a fifth, Digital. The 5 Goals are positive, and focus on the local – they’re all about creating, participating, and showcasing our stories. So far, so good.

It is in the delivery – what Council says it will actually do – that the plan is a little thin on the ground. In particular, it is unclear how the Plan’s goals will be achieved given its limited Actions and Measures, and with the current level of resourcing. There’s plenty of investigating and reviewing, but the Plan is seriously lacking when it comes to proposed action.

Bondi Pavilion, for example, once reopened, will need creative leadership, and significant resources if it is to thrive as a community and cultural centre.  Whilst the plan acknowledges the community’s push for a better operational model, beyond the current venue-for-hire approach, it omits a commitment to follow this new vision through.

Program highlights include the Bondi Story Room Project planned for Bondi Pavilion, an Innovation Hub at the old Boot Factory in Bondi Junction, which just got a DA green light, and a community-led Cultural Committee. The devil will be in the detail of course, but these appear to be good new initiatives.

One flagship project in the Plan is the Bondi Festival, the rebranded joint festival with Bondi Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Magic and The Bondi Feast Festival. This will be the test case for a new partnerships policy.

However, this approach to partnerships suggests a limited view of the arts as little more than a stimulant to commercial activity in areas such as Bondi Junction and on Campbell Parade. Perhaps if the Council invited artists and businesses to partner to design the festival we might deliver a much more powerful experience working together.

There is genuine potential in this plan, but at the moment it feels tentative and lacks detail. There is still work to do for this plan to fully embrace the many cultural practitioners in our local area and deliver benefits for the whole community.

Waverley Council’s Draft Cultural Plan is open for comments until 25 June Resourcing will then be considered as part of Council’s operational planning.


Gemma Deacon and Susan McHattie met during Council’s Cultural Plan consultations in 2019. Gemma is an independent community based arts producer. Susan is a former community arts producer currently working in strategy and change.