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Dissertation Medal Winner 2011

Bush Owner Builder

Part 2 Dissertation 2011
Hannah Robertson
University of Melbourne | Australia
How do we develop culturally sensitive and appropriate housing for a remote Aboriginal community in Australia? I believe the answers are as diverse as the Aboriginal peoples. This project promotes one option for specific application to one community, Hope Vale.

In the remote Indigenous community of Hope Vale southern Cape York in far north Queensland, the majority of housing is government-supplied. A substantial number of these houses are maltreated in the sense that there are issues pertaining to maintenance, overcrowding and spaces not used for their intended purposes. This is partly owing to a common attitude in occupants that they are living in a council home instead of their own place. Surrounding the Hope Vale Township is a number of homeland sites whose traditional owners belong to the community. Many of these people have built their own shacks on their respective homelands.

Fundamentally, homelands refer to the traditional lands of an indigenous Australian group. Homelands hold incalculable spiritual and visceral significance to Aboriginal people, as elucidated by Hope Vale resident Victor Gibson ‘it just feels comfortable when you’re in an area that belongs to you. It’s the land of milk and honey.’

A shift to homeland living could alleviate the current situation in communities, however we need appropriate housing design solutions. Thus I have developed two homeland house designs using separate design methods. The first design was developed entirely from physical observations of the existing self-built shacks. In contrast, the second design has evolved from an extensive, hands-on consultative process with a local Hope Vale family. I then assess the relative successes and failures of each approach by way of comparative analysis.

Both designs are being built as part of the Bush Owner Builder project, established in collaboration with Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson’s Cape York Partnerships (CYP).
The success of this project will only be truly measureable once the houses have been constructed and occupied for some time. Then, perhaps this model could be replicated, but tailored accordingly, to suit other indigenous communities around Australia, taking into account the richness and diversity of cultural practices and issues.

Hannah Robertson

Philip Goad
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