Aeroplane silhouetted against orange sunset

UNSW researchers have found there is room for improvement in the community engagement processes for the development of Western Sydney Airport. The research found that the community engagement processes could have a negative impact on people’s wellbeing and spread a sense of disempowerment, if they continue in the current manner.

The Health Impact Assessment (HIA) report by UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE) offers an insight into how community consultation on the long-awaited project can improve.

The HIA was done in partnership with South Western Sydney Local Health District and the community-based Western Sydney Community Forum.

It involved five community workshops in the Greater Western Sydney suburbs of Blacktown, Bringelly, Cabramatta, Lawson and Oran Park and an online survey to measure responses to engagement processes and their potential impacts on health and wellbeing.

CHETRE Acting Deputy Director Dr Fiona Haigh says the workshops revealed limited engagement so far.

“What we found wasn’t necessarily that people didn’t want an airport, it was that they felt they didn’t have any power or influence in the process, and that what consultation had been done, was done so in a superficial manner,” she said.

“Good engagement can actually strengthen a community – or the opposite can be true. Poor engagement can leave a community feeling out of control and unhappy.

“Involving the community can also help decision makers to better understand community concerns and priorities, and can lead to better decisions that support local communities.”

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