Big ideas are a catalyst for important change, however, when coupled with smart thinking, outcomes that far exceed the expectations of those who are fortunate enough to experience can be achieved. Hames Sharley’s Director and Portfolio Leader of Urban Design and Planning, Michelle Cramer discussed the idea of thinking smart first not just big at the 2012 Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) State Conference: Big State, Big Ideas held in Perth this week (13/09/2012).

Her presentation titled “The Australian Sameness” looks at current planning and urban design practices that enable bigness by driving sameness and how the current planning processes are creating an Australia that looks and feels the same everywhere.

“Why should the sprawling suburbs of northern Perth or the tower constructions in the Perth CBD look, in essence, the same as Western Sydney, Brisbane or sadly, Los Angeles? Moreover, drop me blindfolded in a new community and I may find myself unable to identify whether I am in Ellenbrook or Carramar,” Ms Cramer says.

“The nuance, subtlety and design, has been overcome by the big, many and fast. We need to empower our legislators and developers with the right tools and the right timing to reinforce that these important elements and leadership are a great opportunity for Governments seeking to set a positive agenda.”

With Michelle at the helm, Hames Sharley is currently applying this philosophy of thinking smart coupled with big to Queensland’s Ripley Valley Urban Core. A new master-planned community located in rural Queensland, the project has been identified by the government as Australia’s first “Smart Community” and involves the creation of unique, individual neighbourhoods focused around an urban core context.

Hames Sharley worked collaboratively with the client and three levels of government to initially determine the character of the place and what people living in the area needed first and foremost to deliver best practice urban design and planning. The same findings and approach can be applied to Western Australia.

PIA is the national body representing the planning profession and plays a pivotal role guiding planning professionals to create better communities. To find out more about their upcoming events visit