Four Monash University students have formulated a master plan for an integrated civic, arts and tourism precinct in Campaspe Shire. In 12 weeks, the students conducted a design and feasibility study to develop a vision and concept of the Echuca River frontage between two bridges.

In late 2022, northern Victoria’s largest transport infrastructure project was completed. The result was the construction of a second Murray River crossing to connect Echuca and Moama to make it quicker and easier for people to travel across the Campaspe and Murray Rivers.

The newly built Echuca-Moama Bridge also established a complementary endpoint along the stretch of Murray River frontage, extending from its location to the older steel bridge.

For Campaspe Shire Council, this new ‘Bridge to Bridge’ stretch unlocked an opportunity to develop and redevelop the Echuca River Frontage between the existing bridges.

To leverage this opportunity, the Council partnered with the Monash Industry Team Initiative (MITI) and Gardiner Foundation to employ a small multi-disciplinary team of students to conduct a design and feasibility study of the Echuca Murray River frontage between the two bridges.

The Bridge-to-Bridge Project team was made up of Monash University students Aleez Vasaya – Master of Architecture, Aydin Custovic – Master of Architecture, Cameron Reynolds – Bachelor of Engineering (Civil), Minor in Renewable Energy and Yuan Liu – Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) and Design (Industrial).

The four students spent the summer of 2023/2024 living and working in Echuca as a team to tackle this project.

“The most memorable experience from working on the project would be all our interactions with the various stakeholders of the project and hearing their collective visions for the riverfront in Echuca, no matter how ambitious,” Cameron said.

“This really inspired our design choices leading towards a blend of the community’s visions.”

Aydin, who lives in Essendon, said the overall experience of living in a regional area was different to living in the city.

“Living in a different environment, regionally, I think made the experience such a positive one. I am not sure if I would have felt the same had I completed this project living at home and working in the city. I really enjoyed the things we did outside of work, on the weekends, that I otherwise wouldn’t have done at home,” Aydin said.

This is the first community project Gardiner has sponsored through the MITI program. Since 2014, Gardiner has supported over 266 students, providing them invaluable exposure to relevant learning opportunities and practical experience in regional and rural areas.

Investing in dairy communities to maximise the benefit of all sectors is a large part of the self-sustaining philanthropic organisation’s purpose and vision. This project is part of an effort to attract and retain skilled people in regional areas, so these communities can continue to thrive.

Students Cameron and Aydin developed a new appreciation for Campaspe Shire after spending their entire placement living in Echuca. Both are, for the first time, widening their job search to include regional areas.

“I think the experience has opened my eyes to the range of jobs that rural communities and businesses have to offer. Prior to my placement I probably wouldn’t have considered a job in a rural community or within a local council, however the program showed me the kind of opportunities that are available,” Cameron said.

“The experience has changed the way I will approach the job search when I finish school, I would have never considered a job in a regional town, however after this experience, the option to live regionally is there,” Aydin said.

The project has created opportunities for the Council to explore and integrate surrounding areas with the river frontage design. Key elements include establishing a street connection between the Campaspe and Murray Rivers, creating a Campaspe River frontage walk that connects with the Murray River walk and incorporating the bridges within the Murray River walk.

Through the project, the student team gained invaluable exposure to relevant learning opportunities that relate specifically to their studies while at the same time, acquiring hands-on practical experience.

“I think these programs are extremely helpful in terms of putting my study into action. There were several times where I could integrate civil engineering solutions and recommendations into some of the problems we were facing.”

“However, these were not always as straightforward as some of the practical examples given throughout my studies. This program challenged and enabled me to think of solutions beyond what I’d learnt while still drawing on my acquired knowledge,” Cameron said.

“This practical work helped to solidify our studies. Doing work in the real-world context puts things into perspective in how our work can make a difference to the community,” Aydin said.