Students develop new scripts for Broken Hill's future

8 November 2012

The desert surrounding Broken Hill has been used in films like 'Mad Max' and 'Priscilla: Queen of the Desert'.
The desert surrounding Broken Hill has been used in films like 'Mad Max' and 'Priscilla: Queen of the Desert'.

The famously parched red desert surrounding Broken Hill has served as a giant outdoor film set for some of Australia's most iconic films, including Wake in Fright, Mad Max, and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. Since the early 1970s it has also been a backdrop to hundreds of TV shows, documentaries, commercials and music video clips.

But the town hasn't always been able to rely on the regular economic boosts that come from large film crews temporarily pitching a tent in their neighbourhood: the producers of the latest instalment in the Mad Max franchise abandoned plans to film there after regular rain made flowers bloom and the landscape too green to pass as a post-apocalyptic setting.

But now University of Sydney students are helping to stimulate a new wave of creative and sustainable industries in Broken Hill, with a plan to redevelop the town's disused Central Power Station and rejuvenate the Broken Hill Film Studio.

Earlier this year the 22 architecture and business students from the University of Sydney spent two intense weeks in Broken Hill developing four master plans for the Broken Hill Studio. The students' work was released this week in a book titled Broken Hill Central Power Station: The University of Sydney architecture and enterprise projects.

The students' master plans include a film and production studio, a cinema-themed tourist attraction, a permanent exhibition showcasing the region's mining history, and arts cultural centres celebrating the region's Indigenous heritage and arts community.

The students' proposals also included "parks and community gardens for local residents, and an educational campus with art studios and workshops to help build alternative training opportunities for the region," said Professor Michael Tawa of the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning.

"This is an interdisciplinary project that requires an understanding of both architecture and business," he added. "Their proposals showed innovative and sustainable integration of commercial, cultural, educational, tourism and environmental values."

Professor Tawa said: "the opportunity for first-hand experience working on a real-life project of this scale is great for our students. We thank the Broken Hill City Council for inviting us to contribute to this project,"

The project, jointly taught by the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, and the Innovation and Enterprise Program in the Business School, "provided a rich and challenging environment for students," added Megan Donnelley from the University of Sydney Business School.

"The Broken Hill Studios project is part of the broader Memorandum of Understanding between Council and the University which we believe will produce enormously positive outcomes for both parties for years to come," Broken Hill City Council's Manager Economic Development, Andrea Roberts, explained.

"The MoU will make possible many future projects," said Professor Tawa. "Some will extend the work we have already done at the Broken Hill Studios into more detail, while others will investigate innovative ideas for the town and the region - even looking to international partnerships and exchanges."

As well as a commitment to repeat a similar project in Broken Hill in 2013, the University of Sydney Business School's Program Director of Innovation and Enterprise, Dr Richard Seymour, intends to promote similar community-engaged teaching programs in Vietnam, India and Myanmar.

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