– written by Dr Kirsti Abbott

UNE Discovery is all about collaboration, and in 2019 we are excited to be exploring with new partners, commonalities and needs in our community that the Boilerhouse Discovery Space might meet even before it opens its doors.

If you remember the sense of joy and anticipation you felt as a child upon entering a playscape, art space or children’s museum, you’ll know what we are trying to bring to regional children. We have reason to believe there is a real need in our communities for informal, all-day play and learning spaces that inspire and connect families and neighbours.

Changing demographics, advances in technology and shifts in approaches to parenting, philanthropy and workforce development (just to name a few!), are affecting every part of society. Failure to respond to this with innovative and engaging spaces and programs will eventually lead to the decline of regional Australia and Australians. We refuse to let this happen, and we can’t do it alone.

For us, partnerships mean many things:

  • Being embedded in community conversations about supporting young people and families in our region;
  • Finding where the burdens are in family and child related services and helping ease them for government and private organisations;
  • Working with researchers, practitioners and creators to imagine a Boilerhouse that brings together ideas from all perspectives;
  • Creating wealth and financial support through multiple giving channels to sustain an initiative like the Boilerhouse Discovery Space into the future.

To this end, we are working with researchers in the School of Education here at UNE, and ecologist in Environment & Rural Science to put together research and evaluation projects that will help us understand the impact of our programs and spaces. We have also started working with The Benevolent Society that exist to support a just society where all Australians can live their best life. They are Australia’s first ever charity! And we are proud to be able to partner to help realise this vision in our region.

Connecting with the Early Childhood Education and Care sector has been a highlight of the past 6 months. The leaders and educators that are growing our young children put their hearts and intellect into each day. They’re initial feedback is that working together will provide an “out-of-care” discovery space that will benefit children beyond the daycare doors.

Furthering the Education Tourism industry of our region is something we’ve worked together with the Department of Education, NERAM, Armidale Regional Council and local member to incorporate into our story of the Boilerhouse Discovery Space. An iconic and unique building and experience based at the first regional university in Australia can assist in boosting tourism and deeper experiences in the New England.

We hosted Questacon and the Australian Museum in 2018 on their regional tours too! The Smart Skills team from Questacon facilitated school workshops, teacher professional learning, and then the Invention Convention, and the Australian Museum and UNE jointly facilitated Science on the Road in Tamworth in October, which was a highlight science event for people from far and wide.

In 2019 we look forward to introducing more of our Boilerhouse friends and family, including the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (Powerhouse in Sydney), philanthropic partners and corporate sponsors like Telstra who already fund our Voyager program and maker space work with Armidale City Public School.