Official consultation relating to the proposed picket fence around Unley Oval has concluded. Over 400 submissions have been received through the “Your Say Unley” website, emails and letters. This is a huge number of submissions which demonstrates the deep interest a broad number of people have in this wonderful piece of “district” land which is used for passive and structured recreational activities by people who live just over the road or who choose to drive from outside the Council area to use it.
With so much interest in this I have unsurprisingly had a number of conversations with many people about it. Whilst the majority of people I have spoken with are in favor of the picket fence not everyone is.
As a Mayor one of my greatest concerns is for the harmony of the Unley community.
All communities go through periods of change and Unley is no different. Sometimes situations occur through change processes which see a community become divided. The process of change results in a loss of trust between members of that community leaving fear to linger. So time passes but historically unresolved issues rise again to the surface at the next juncture of community-change at which point distrust and fear resurface and its hard to move forward together.
So it is in the Unley Oval precinct where there appears to have resurfaced a division between Sturt FC and some residents which was born of an era in the 80s.
What I want to know is how deep this division is in reality today.
So it was that I went to Unley Oval to spend the best part of 20 hours over three weeks during the early hours of the morning to see if there were any mythical “Sturt haters”, or “resident bashers”. It was a curious (and cold) experience which ended in the last hour being absorbed in conversation with a 70 year old Tai Chi expert, whose English was as good as my Chinese.
One clear message from the people I met is that there is no such thing as a “Sturt hater” or “resident basher”. It would seem this class of people are a myth and our community is all the better. I was greatly relieved. Whilst I was assured by the people I spoke with that there no haters or bashers, I heard people filled with distrust and fear.
The community around the Unley Oval does not trust and is afraid of itself. People’s perceptions are people’s realities. Whilst the fear I heard in the voices of the people I listened to exists there will remain a rift between some residents and the club, the both of which are the sum of the Unley Oval community.
There were kind decent people who came and spoke to me about their fear and distrust of Sturt FC. They told me of their fear that a picket fence was the first step in Sturt wanting to take control over the Oval to the exclusion of others. They spoke to me of their inability to trust that Sturt would financially contribute to the expense of the picket fence.
In all instances of a resident being distrustful or fearful of Sturt, they recalled the circumstances surrounding how Sturt stopped playing games at Unley Oval, leaving with debts to Council in the 1980s. They spoke with a high degree of skepticism about the financial contributions that could be made by Sturt towards the cost of the fence.
I tried to assure all that Sturt have a new board, new management, new players and indeed all that happened a generation ago. From my experience with the club as both a supporter and Mayor I’ve found their deep interest in the welfare of the community exemplary. Indeed in talking to other Mayors I’ve learnt that of all the SANFL clubs Sturt are the most community focused and intergrated.
Perhaps this is why a number of residents living adjacent the oval were supportive of not just the club itself but the idea of a picket fence. There seems genuine affection towards the club from a number of residents.
The variety of opinions was expansive though. There were Sturt supporters who didn’t want a fence, there were non footy people who liked the idea of the fence. There were people who thought a fence would improve the look of the space and others who felt it detracted from its feel of openness. Some wanted more gates, others wanted a green instead of white fence and still others wanted a design competition to enable a creative young university mind to discover a solution that would keep all parties happy.
With over 400 hundred responses, I like all Elected Members await the details and breakdowns of the comments received from the community. These will steer us in our deliberations.
I’m sure many members will break down the numbers and scrutinize where the responses came from. In all likelihood I expect Elected Members to place a slightly greater weight on those responses from Unley residents.
However the number falls I suspect they will be extremely enlightening and I hope they can help shed clarity on the true position and mindset of people towards not just the fence but also the club.
I suspect some old myths, like the existence if Sturt haters and resident bashers will be put to rest once and for all.
I’d like to congratulate so many people for getting involved and in doing so, on the whole, in a respectful manner. The responsibility of Council is to now make a decision on the construction or not of a picket fence.
rel=author Lachlan Clyne
Categories: Lachlan Clyne - Personal Life