Australia's Best Playground National Winner

The nation-wide search for Australia’s best playground is over, with the the expert jury crowning the City of Melbourne’s Nature Play at Royal Park the country’s overall best public play space. Australia's Best Playground is a national initiative of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA), sponsored by Lappset Australia.

Nature Play is located adjacent to Melbourne’s new Royal Children’s Hospital, and was applauded for its responsive design – to the local heritage of place by focusing on the seven season of the Wurundjeri as well as respecting the highly valued character of Royal Park, and by encouraging patient and staff interaction.

Jury Citation

Located adjacent to Melbourne’s new Royal Childrens Hospital on the former site of the hospital, the new Nature Play at Royal Park exemplifies Australia’s finest playspace for children of all ages and abilities. The jury were impressed with the site responsive approach, focused on the seven seasons of the Wurundjeri, as well as the much valued character of Royal Park.

Reflecting a very broad and diverse design process, the City of Melbourne’s design team and their partners have collaborated to deliver a positive, engaging, beautiful and fun experience that will evolve over time. Utilising the existing site topography and features site, the playspace offers a wide range of play and experiences adjacent to a hospital - meaning patient and staff interaction is not only possible but encouraged.

The new playspace offers meandering paths, open flexible lawn spaces, places to gather and meet, to reflect and retreat, and connection with big skies. It centres around active and imaginative play spaces built upon the new landform of hills, gullies, grasslands and creeks, connecting with the existing parkland in two distinct ways.

The grassy mound provides a backdrop to the new space creating an invitation to explore the expanses of Royal Park or just roll down the hill. It celebrates the dramatic nature of Royal Park with long views up to the grassland circle and of the contrasting view back to the city skyline. On a more intimate scale, the gully spaces are set up against the existing woodland to embed these within the vegetation fabric of the park which has encouraged play activity to extend into the unstructured spaces of the broader parkland.

Nature Play at Royal Park is designed to invite users to look deeper to witness the layers and seasonal change in the playspace. The jury applaud the approach, as it sets the standard for building appreciation, engagement and respect for the space at a city scale, and builds on the unique heritage of Royal Park, building knowledge and ensuring that future generations become active stewards of the natural environment.

Click here to view the winning submission.

ACT/NSW Regional Winner

Jury Citation

The jury felt that Lizard Log playground addressed sustainability issues conscientiously and extended this to children’s play opportunities through innovative use of recycled water in a play pump and water course system and use of locally sourced logs, trees and rocks as fixed play equipment. It is pleasing to see under surfacing that is natural, ie sand, dirt and grass as this encourages a freedom of play that is not easy to achieve through design in urban spaces. Lizard Log provides open ended play opportunities that allow children a wide range of sensory experiences and fun. The park is designed for free flowing movement along pathways that follow the contours of the land. Places for supervising adults to sit while their children play are provided at intervals and complement the relaxed and inviting feel of the play space. Lizard Log playground is integrated into its surrounds in a natural way and the popularity of such design for play is evident in an increased number of visitors to the site since its development.

Click here to view the winning submission

VIC/TAS Regional Winner

Jury Citation

Sited on a previously existing lawn area within Valley Reserve bushland park and occupying the site of the previous playground, the jury were impressed by the respect for the natural bush surrounds demonstrated by this project. Through careful siting and layout of the play-space, appropriate materials selection, referencing and ‘theming’ the jury saw that the design team worked hard to achieve minimal impact on the existing bushland and successfully integrated the play-space into the project site, complementing its natural setting.

Through a broad ranging and considered engagement process, this design team delivered an inclusive play-space which provides opportunity and ‘space’ for adults and children of all abilities, gender and background. It is a place to be active and have fun. As the submission summarised, the space challenges participants to overcome fears, embrace the perceived risk and how to identify ones limits. Importantly it is completely un‐prescriptive in nature, forcing the users to test themselves and appropriate the space accordingly and use their imagination.

Click here to view the winning submission

WA/NT/SA/QLD Regional Winner

Jury Citation


With a strong and inclusive play theme, Yokine Regional Play Space was applauded by the jury for addressing the competition criteria so strongly and effectively. A strong research base defined the form and functions of the playspace, including a very wide variety of visual, audible, and tactile experiences; from water and sand play, sensory play, diverse balancing and swinging, through to bespoke mythical creatures and elements of the curious.

The wide ranging and embracing design and consultation process is evident, as the seamless and well resolved spatial design provides a great facility for kids of all ages and abilities. Yokine is a standout playspace, created underneath an existing canopy of established trees, for the whole community to enjoy.


Click here to view the winning submission

Innovation Award

The jury made a special mention of PLAY[ground] by HASSELL and have awarded them an Innovation Award.


Jury Citation

The jury were impressed by the projects outreach to an audience that might not ordinarily engage with landscape architecture and conversations around city making. Archikidz in partnership with Sydney Living Museums for Vivid 2015, transformed Hyde Park Barracks for three days into PLAY[ground] reaching 6,000 people, offering 30 free workshops, with over 100 volunteers. PLAY[ground] was a collaboration with HASSELL and a diverse and dynamic team of creatives who delivered a temporary installation for spontaneous and uninhibited play. PLAY[ground] is unique in that it engages in a conversation with the community about our cities, their future and how we interact with the public domain, with a focus on kids and play.

While the project was temporary, all components were re-purposed, returned or recycled minimising impact. PLAY[ground] firmly puts kids in the city and play on the city making agenda and the jury were impressed by the innovative approaches taken, conversations generation and advocacy achieved by the project.

Click here to view the winning submission.

Australia’s Best Playground competition recognizes and celebrates well designed public playspaces, and the landscape architects who are committed to designing and creating a better Australia. AILA members were invited to submit finished playspace projects, ranging from adventure playgrounds to cross fit circuits to waterplay to senior fitness courses. Selected by People’s Choice and an expert jury, the winning entrant receives an all-expenses trip to Finland, courtesy of Lappset Australia.

Please click below for further information

Submissions Received

People's Choice Shortlisted Entries

Media Release

Further Information