Sunflower program shines brightly

The  transformation of the Latrobe Valley’s vacant blocks into fields of sunflowers has gained the attention of politicians, national media and state-wide awards.

This year the ‘Get Sunflowered’ project received an Award of Excellence, the highest accolade in the communities category of the Victorian Landscape Architecture Awards.

Brought to the region by RMIT University’s OUTR Research Lab and its ReActivate Latrobe Valley component, the project sought to empower residents to be “agents of change” in the community.

ReActivate Latrobe Valley and OUTR Research Lab co-director Craig Douglas said it was wonderful to receive external recognition, which he hoped Valley locals would take pride in.

“These are moments of recognition that really describe back to the people of the community how wonderful they are in all the endeavours they are doing and this is one of those endeavours,” he said.

The Victorian Landscape Architecture Awards were presented by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.

The Victorian jury unanimously supported Get Sunflowered for the “powerful simplicity of its intent, concept and execution” in an area often highlighted for its disadvantage and connection to the brown coal industry.

Mr Douglas hopes the Latrobe Valley community will take ownership of the project, which he believes has the potential to “develop, change, stay fresh and engaging”.

“As we move into the future, we get more and more feedback from the community as to how they want to engage with it,” Mr Douglas said.

“We will work with those ideas and maybe at some point there is going to be a shift where we can step back and let other people build that capacity and come and take it on themselves.”

‘Get Sunflowered’ will now progress through to the National Landscape Architecture Awards, to be announced on 27 October in Canberra.

Mr Douglas described the state award as validation, with plans to approach the national nomination “with all enthusiasm” and the team would “give it a good crack”.

‘Get Sunflowered’ was generated and managed by the OUTR Lab in collaboration with artist Ben Morrieson, community groups, industry and local government.