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Interview: Bachelor of Design student Laura Brown talks scholarships, urban planning and uni life

Laura Brown is the first recipient of the DELWP Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship. The Scholarship supports commencing Bachelor of Design students who intend to major in urban planning. The aim is to support the diversification of our student cohort and, consequently, of future urban planning professionals entering the workforce who will go on to shape our urban environment. The best way to facilitate a robust and inclusive urban planning agenda and future for Victoria is to ensure that the planners themselves are from diverse backgrounds.

The DELWP Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship is a collaboration between Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Medley Hall and the University of Melbourne

Click here for more information about the DELWP Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship.  

APPLY NOW: applications are now open for the DELWP Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship for Semester 2, 2017

What attracted you to study urban planning?

I’m very design oriented, so I was drawn to the Bachelor of Design as soon as I heard about it. I did two visual portfolio subjects in Year 12 and I think that gave me a good understanding of being in a creative field and made me realise I wanted to continue in that area. With urban planning in particular, I always felt like it’s a field that’s going to be really useful in the future, and I feel like you can really make a positive difference working in planning.

You are a month into your first semester of the Bachelor of Design, how are your classes going?

My classes are all going really well! They are very interesting and there’s a lot of work to do. The Bachelor of Design degree has a really high amount of contact hours and study time, which is great because I’m learning so much, but it also means I’m really, really busy. I’m enjoying all the classes and I’m really enjoying the drawing aspect of some of the classes.

A lot of the specialisations come later in the degree, so the first-year subjects are all about providing you with a broad spectrum of all the disciplines, and a foundation in design knowledge. In my classes we are covering some more technical computer focused areas, as well as drawing skills, history, design and urban planning. One of the subjects I’m doing is called Cities Past and Future, so this is looking at the different planning that has gone into older cities throughout history, and the planning that currently goes into newer cities. The subject explores the similarities and differences of the cities over the years, and looks at planning trends moving forward too.

Another subject I’m doing is called Global Foundations of Design, which is more about the history of how cities formed and how different practices and religions influenced the formation of cities around the world. It’s really interesting to learn about all the different elements that come together to actually form and influence the development of a city. So, overall, it’s been a really good insight into urban planning to begin with!

Has the DELWP scholarship changed your view about university?

I think having the DELWP Scholarship has made University more accessible to me. Especially doing the Bachelor of Design, there are some extra materials and software that you need to buy, so having the additional financial support from the scholarship really goes a long way. I don’t have to worry as much about the financial aspect, and I can just concentrate on my studies.

The University does provide the resources for you in terms of computer labs with software and things like that, but I feel like having the scholarship has given me the flexibility to buy the software for myself so I can work from college or any place, and not have to come in to a lab necessarily.

How has the DELWP scholarship changed the way you view your future career?

I think having the DELWP Scholarship has opened up possibilities. Coming in to the Bachelor of Design and thinking about urban planning, I’d like to one day be equipped to go back to rural communities and build infrastructure, or schools or housing, that really benefits the community.

Often rural residents have to travel long distances to access basic facilities like health care or schooling. So, with this scholarship, I feel like I can see myself more easily being in a career role where I could facilitate access to this infrastructure for rural communities.

I also feel like I have an ally or a supporter in DELWP – obviously throughout my studies – but also moving into my career I think having this link with DELWP will help me to create a professional network.

One of the factors in selecting a DELWP Scholarship recipient was a short written piece where you identified what you think are the top planning challenges facing your community – what did you write and how do you see the DELWP scholarship assisting you in addressing these challenges in the future?

My focus was on the difficulties rural communities can face when it comes to accessing basic services. Rural residents can live hours away from cities and access to schools, healthcare, libraries and infrastructure that people take for granted in cities. For schooling, kids often need to be sent off to boarding schools and they are essentially separated from their families in order to get a good education. It’s not ideal. I have a lot of indigenous and non-indigenous friends that moved from remote communities to these massive private boarding schools, and they just felt so lost. They were no longer with their community or their family, and they were put in this big unfamiliar environment. I know many of them would have preferred to even travel an hour each way to school if it meant having the opportunity to stay with their family, instead of being in a boarding school.

Education is key to any future really. Knowing that a lot of indigenous students, in particular, aren’t getting that education, isn’t great to hear. In far north Queensland the rate of indigenous students finishing school is very low, so how are they then supposed to go on to find jobs and support their families when the motivation to get education isn’t there?

I feel like I would ideally use this degree to somehow resolve these problems, whether it’s facilitating access to infrastructure in these communities or actually building infrastructure or schools.

What’s your favourite place on campus?

Um, the Melbourne School of Design! I’m biased but I do really love this building. It’s a great place to study and there’s always people here that you can ask for help if you need to.

Also, Murrup Barak which is the Melbourne University indigenous development centre, is really helpful with a lot of computer and printing resources, and there are always people available to talk to if you need. The billiards room in Union House is always fun too.

I love the South Lawn as well. It’s so calming and peaceful. It feels like you are just sitting at the park. That’s a big advantage of the Melbourne University Parkville campus – there are a lot of open spaces here. If you think about other University campuses in the city, I imagine it would be a lot harder to find a big open grassy space that makes you forget you are in the city or at Uni. In that sense, the campus here was really well-planned!

What would be your dream project in your future career?

I think my dream project would be creating anything that benefits people. Creating a place like a community centre, a school or a health centre would be really rewarding. A place where people feel at home and feel like they belong.