What We Thought Would Kill Us

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The Committee for Perth is known for its evidence base of facts and figures that inform the future of the Perth and Peel regions. As part of our impressive knowledge base, we look backwards too. What We Thought Would Kill Us is a series of case studies that examine moments in time in which the regions thought the sky would fall in if change occurred.

The first of the case studies concerned one of Perth’s most controversial developments of the 1980s – Hillarys Boat Harbour – about which our researcher concluded, ‘We love to have access to waterfronts with amenity such as commercial, tourism and leisure activities; yet we fear any change to our much-treasured coastline’.

Another case in point is The Bell Tower, a building now frequently criticised for being too modest. At the time of its development, public debate raged, questioning the purpose and benefit of the project, with people calling for the premier of the day to fund more classrooms and hospital beds instead.

We have released seven case studies in the series to date, and subsequent research has revealed that the common features of community opposition for a controversial project can be broadly summarised as:

  • lack of early opportunity for community consultation and feedback
  • projects proposed within established residential or commercial sites
  • projects proposed at sites of high social, cultural, environmental or heritage value
  • projects perceived to be poorly selected and poorly time-managed or budgeted.

Ultimately, the case studies reveal that Perth is a region that says no before it says yes, and our latest case study examining alfresco dining is no different in this regard. Alfresco dining was banned in the Greater Perth region by overzealous regulations. With an enviable outdoor lifestyle and 300 days of sunshine each year, one wonders why.

What We Thought Would Kill Us: Alfresco Dining looks back on the region’s humble colonial beginnings. The findings of the case study are as nostalgic as they are cringeworthy, documenting the ideas of newcomers challenging the status quo and changing the outlook of resistant governments.

With alfresco dining a norm of life in Perth today, we have the then New Australians to thank for sustaining a campaign to liberate us from our traditional ways. As spring leads into summer, and the warmer days and nights shift our focus to the outdoors, take a moment to reflect that change is a hard-fought battle, and with time and distance often seems to be such a waste of time and effort.

All case studies from What We Thought Would Kill Us are available to download from here.

Published in Business News 17 October 2022

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.