Let your eyes decide

A PhD candidate wants Maylands decision-makers to get off their butts and pound the streets with locals.

Tina Askam is researching whether there are tangible benefits to officials and property developers walking with residents before making decisions that affect the community.

Since last year the Edith Cowan Uni student has completed 50 walks with locals, aged from eight to 80, through the suburban heart of Maylands.

“Most of the walks have centered around Eighth Avenue, Whatley Crescent and the central shopping area,” she says.

“On one walk, I ended up going around with a lady who was doing her shopping. The walks usually last about an hour and we finish up with a coffee and a chat.”

The 43-year-old says a wider theme of her research is related to social justice, where locals have a greater say in what happens in their own neighbourhood.

In recent years the introduction of majority-appointed—not elected—development assessment panels has muzzled local opinion and influence on developments.

“On these walks decision-makers and people get to re-connect with their local surroundings and get a tactile feel of the area—including smells, sounds and sights—rather than just looking at a map or a building plan.

“It is a much more immersive experience. People tend to walk about on autopilot in their local area without taking everything in.”

In the UK, controversial intellectual and journalist Will Self has promoted the benefits of reconnecting with his environs by walking everywhere, in a process dubbed “psychogeography”.

He remarked how despite having lived in London for years he’d never seen the mouth of the River Thames.

He’s since walked to Heathrow airport and across Los Angeles without using any transport—besides the plane to cross the Atlantic.

Askam, who lives in Leederville, plans to finish her research in March and hold an exhibition of her findings in a yet-to-be-determined location in Maylands in May.

If you are a local and want to go on a walk with Askam visit http://www.whatmakesmaylands.com.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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