Walk, Talk And Listen – While The Children Tell Their Stories

Mornington May 2016.jpg

Last week I received an email from the Arts Centre informing me that “we have another community engagement project at Arts Centre Melbourne that you might be interested in being part of called The Walking Neighbourhood.”

I was definitely interested! Especially if it turns out to be as entertaining and satisfying as Dominoes, my last community volunteering effort.

The two poetry books I published in the 1990s were inspired by my daughters and their friends, so how wonderful to see the world from the viewpoint of current young people. Primary children through to adolescents will be involved – what a privilege to hear their interests,  concerns, imagination and ideas first hand unfiltered by what the media portrays and assumes.



In The Walking Neighbourhood, young people take the lead and give you the opportunity to experience life through their eyes as they take you on a unique guided tour of Melbourne’s Arts Precinct. In a series of short walks, you will be taken on a one-of-a-kind exploration of the places and stories that they think are most important.

 This project is community based and is a wonderful opportunity to give children and young people a voice in sharing their ideas and perspective on their neighbourhoods and cities. Children and youth have the capacity to transform a space with their vivid imaginations, their bright and bubbly energy and their ability to think creatively approaching situations from completely different perspectives.

bringing your children up to be indpendent.jpeg

It is a sad fact that modern children, particularly those who live in the city and suburbs, don’t have the freedom I remember from childhood. Rarely do you see children playing in the street or local park like we did when there were fewer cars and before ‘stranger danger’ instilled fear into so many communities. Fear of children being molested, attacked or kidnapped prevents many families letting children explore or play independent of adults.

Fewer children walk to and from school without parental supervision and exploring unfamiliar places without an adult in attendance is rare.

This intergenerational project the Arts Centre Melbourne has arranged appealed to me because it is a unique opportunity.

Ironically, the children participating in this project will have an adult volunteer like me with them, but we will be stage managers and prop carriers if need be, to be directed by the children. We’ll help them present what they want as they lead the walk and share their stories.

Conceived during residencies with Mammalian Diving Reflex in 2 schools, Tasmania Australia and Toronto Canada, where 11 year olds shared very similar concerns about their lack of autonomy, The Walking Neighbourhood responds to the rising hysteria around children in public space and their safety.

In Melbourne, The Walking Neighbourhood will take place next weekend, Saturday June 4 and Sunday June 5 and my shifts are in the afternoon from 1pm – 4pm. It is a free event and from what I understand from attending an induction evening, there will be more than 100 children involved. This will be the most ambitious program the resident artists and local helpers have tackled since the concept’s inception in 2010.

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On Friday afternoon, I went into the Arts Centre to help make craft items for the event. A space in the Arts Centre will be the launching point for the walks but also a place where adults and children alike  can participate in making craft, interact and get to know each other.

Judy, Nalika and myself were given the task of making God’s Eyes – a simple task if any of us could remember how to do them! A quick Google search and memories were jogged.

The Internet is indeed amazing, but we could have done with a child to show us instead of searching for a strong enough signal to watch a Youtube demonstration.  For a moment we wished we were outside painting with some of the other volunteers!

I have another session this Thursday night where I’ll be working with some of the teenagers on another craft activity – let’s hope it’s one I can do!

I’ve practised at home and made a few more God’s Eyes and just hope I don’t forget the skill for the workshops on the weekend!

Practice makes perfect.

Working with the volunteers and visiting artists and having a coffee and cake together in the cafe allows us to share our stories and is one of the delightful pluses of these community projects.

I also love the opportunity of seeing the city at different times and in different seasons.

In a couple of my writing classes we have been writing Triolets again and I wrote one on the train home from the Arts Centre on Friday afternoon while thinking of being there late on Tuesday evening and reflecting on what a difference light makes and how it can effect beauty and mood.

Marvellous Melbourne
Mairi Neil

Marvellous Melbourne, majestic and beautiful
Breathtaking reminder of how lucky we are
Of all the world’s cities, you are the most liveable
Marvellous Melbourne, majestic and beautiful
Caught in your spell, my obsession not curable
Strolling Southgate’s walkways, beneath sun or star
Marvellous Melbourne, majestic and beautiful
Breathtaking reminder of how lucky we are

Melbourne Arts Precinct, vibrant and alive
Tourists and locals add culture and mood
Walk Princes Bridge, there is no need to drive
Melbourne Arts Precinct, vibrant and alive!
Yarra River rippling, entrancing – life thrives
Stalls, dancing, busking, a variety of food
Melbourne Arts Precinct, vibrant and alive
Tourists and locals add culture and mood.


I can appreciate the beauty of this part of Melbourne regardless of the time of day – what about you?

Have you ever been inspired to capture your love of Melbourne or another city in verse?


3 thoughts on “Walk, Talk And Listen – While The Children Tell Their Stories

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