Through their frequent visits to public green spaces in cities with white majority cultures, non-English-speaking immigrants draw attention to the way people from different cultural backgrounds perceive and use these spaces. By building on theories of landscape as a cultural phenomenon, this paper investigates new ways in which recent generations of immigrants to Australia are using urban park spaces. It focuses on cultural and mythical notions of Australian park landscapes and questions to what extent they contribute to the sense of inclusivity, or alienation, that non-English-speaking immigrants experience in using these spaces.
This paper examines the mythology surrounding the ‘bush’ and ‘Arcadia’ and how these are intrinsic to Anglo-Australian consideration of natural landscapes, landscape design and, therefore, urban park character in Australia. These characteristics, along with the influence of English picturesque design, have resulted in landscapes that illustrate the aesthetic of nature and facilitate sporting activities. However, how are these landscapes, which are culturally meaningful for insiders, perceived by newcomers? Non-English-speaking immigrants in Australian urban park spaces reconnect to their memories of place and cultural identities. They also show stronger preferences for passive activities and socialising, and express their selves and culture in relation to nature in urban parks.
Mythical notions of park landscapes that have evolved in Australian culture, coupled with the desire of recent non-English-speaking immigrants to use urban park spaces in ways counter to these notions, have given rise to dialectical attitudes towards Australian landscapes and their meanings. This paper suggests ways that these insights can be used to improve the design and management of urban parks so that they promote inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all park users in multicultural Australian cities.