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Design region Kortrijk experienced Australia's smart and creative Geelong

Mieck Vos and Stijn Debaillie, respectively president and coordinator of Designregio Kortrijk, traveled to Geelong, Australia, last week for the annual meeting of the UNESCO Creative Cities of Design sub-network.

From indigenous territory to bustling industry: a Geelong history

Located in the state of Victoria, about 75 kilometers southwest of Melbourne, Geelong was originally inhabited by the Wadawurrung tribe. Starting in 1830, the first European settlements were established upon which the town broke out into an important industrial center with wool and flour mills and other manufacturing facilities. This flourishing industry made Port Philip an important port where there was a cross-pollination of traders. New industries such as petrochemicals and automobile manufacturing also emerged later.

Today, the city is known for its diverse manufacturing industry, strong health care system and forward-thinking educational institutions. The region has a very low unemployment rate and a population of about 270,000. Those inhabitants, also known as the Geelongites, are characterized by their efficiency and plan of action, always choosing the shortest path to reach their goal without deviating from their mission.

In addition to a substantially expanded industry, tourists can enjoy its beautiful beaches, parks and gardens, as well as cultural attractions such as the Geelong Art Gallery and the National Wool Museum.

From 17 design cities worldwide, 25 delegates came to Geelong to discover from each other, learn, share, create, network and much more. The many meetings, workshops and visits highlighted why the city received UNESCO recognition, and its representatives managed to wow all delegates with its glory.

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Geelong stand out for its...

Experimental public architecture

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Progressive approach to education with a dedicated Tech School where students attend multi-day STEAM programs. Deakin University also published pioneering research in carbon fiber for the automotive industry.

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Inclusiveness and respect for the Wadawurrung people

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Resilience to convert old industrial parks for new innovative businesses

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The activation of the waterfront as a hub of sports and leisure for citizens,

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... and the use of design thinking to develop the new cultural center and restructure the organization.

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Mieck Vos and Stijn Debaillie stepped back on board the flight home with a replenished contact book and full of inspiration. They look forward to seeing how the overseas vision can further support their beloved Kortrijk in further sustainable development.

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Did you know that Stijn Debaillie was coordinator of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network of Design since 2020, and deputy coordinator since 2018? Last week, he handed over this role to new coordinator CindyLee of the city of Wuhan. AnnieMarrs of the city of Dundee will take on the role as deputy coordinator. Over the past 5 years, the city of Kortrijk was able to quickly integrate itself into this unique network and strengthen its contacts with other design cities around the world. Stijn continues to lead the Business & Design Working Group together with the City of Graz as the representative of the City of Kortrijk.

Thanks to the Flemish UNESCO Commission for financial support.