Stories from a Debut City

Organizing Brisbane, Australia's first Jane's Walk festival

Greg Vann, March 16, 2015

My city, Brisbane, made its Jane's Walk debut last year. I really I had no idea what to do or how to make this happen, but the willingness of people and organisations to be a part of the day and to share their city resulted in four walks. Over 100 people attended, including quite a few children (and a couple of dogs!). Here is what happened and what I learned!

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Walk 1: CBD Vibrant Laneways and Small Spaces

This was led by a wonderful team of people whose day jobs are with Brisbane City Council. They explored lots of lesser-known parts of our downtown, and shared its stories and secrets. A nice group of all ages came along. People love this stuff!


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Walk 2: The Hills and Valleys of Paddington

This was led by our Queensland State Government Architect, Malcolm Middleton OAM, supported by Brisbane Open House with access to their networks. A large crowd turned out to jaunt around this fascinating inner suburb. That’s Malcolm with the orange cap on, holding court, sharing his deep knowledge of his suburb.

Walk 3: The Kurilpa Quick Step: Dancing across the Peninsula

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This was led by Seleneah More with Darren Godwell and Erin Evans, and supported by the West End Community Association, one of our city’s most active and involved community organizations. It linked together various parts of the neighbourhood where dance had played an important historical role. It was a fascinating take on an area. If there wasn’t a dance called “the talking stroll,” I think it was invented there and then!

Walk 4: Discovering the 7 Hills of Brisbane... in Brisbane!

I led this one myself, with my work colleague and friend Kim Amos. I was delighted also that my wife Jan Smith, my sister Meg, her son Declan and our two Dalmatians, Molly and Henry, came along to support too. I’d moved temporarily to the area known as Seven Hills, but even though I have lived in Brisbane all my life, didn’t know it was named after the famous Roman hills, which all feature in the local landscape. But it was not just me talking—lots of those along for the walk contributed their knowledge of the area’s history and quirks.

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And what did I learn about Jane’s Walk?

The feedback I received at each of the walks, and the obvious interest and enjoyment on the faces of those who came along, were evidence enough for me that this is a great idea. People really do want to know more about their city and local area, and get more connected to the place and their fellow residents. And walking and talking together is a wonderful way to do that.

It also showed me that, although the role of organizer was a bit daunting at first, the willingness of others to contribute, and the interest people have in their city, makes the job very rewarding!

I'm grateful to have been able to tap into such a rich vein of people who care about their city and want to share that with our community, and felt once more the simple joy and sense of fulfilment that volunteering and doing something which others get value from can bring.

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