Margaret Feilman (22 June 1921 –24 September 2013)

In 1951 Margaret Feilman began a long association with the Western Australian State Housing Commission where she had been given a four-year cadetship allowing her to qualify as an architect. After travelling and gaining experience both interstate and overseas, including gaining post-graduate qualifications in town and country planning at the University of Durham, Margaret opened her own practice as a town planning consultant and architect. She set an example to young women seeking to have a career of their own at a time when it was unusual for women to be full-time professionals.

In the following year Margaret was appointed to lead the planning for the New Kwinana, on land south of Perth adjacent to a new port and industrial facility on Cockburn Sound, to support and house 25,000 local workers specifically to be employed at the BP Refinery. She walked around the undeveloped areas of Kwinana before planning began, taking into account environmental concerns such as wind direction and how the potential townsite might be affected by fumes from the proposed Refinery. As a result she was able to convince the State politicians to place the new town slightly inland and not on the coast next to the industrial area as was first envisaged. She also identified social needs for housing and community facilities which were within walking distance of homes, and planned for plenty of open spaces of natural bush within the suburbs, lessons learned overseas and a novelty in Australia. For the residents of Kwinana, Margaret’s legacy is a well-planned, healthy place to live where the residents never feel far from nature.

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