First Nations initiatives

Knowledge sharing on built environment issues

We are committed to building Indigenous knowledges and cultural competency into activities across the school and advocate for increased participation of Indigenous students and staff in school life.

The school, through its Indigenous Strategy and Services Committee, is committed to undertaking initiatives to support the University’s One Sydney, Many Peoples strategy; in addition, develop and implement strategies, initiatives, and activity related to Indigenous Built Environment participation, engagement, education and research.

The school sits proudly on Gadigal land, where First Nations people have taught, learnt and nurtured since time immemorial. Located in the Wilkinson Building on City Road, Darlington, the school sits adjacent to a popular Gadigal fishing spot in Blackwattle Creek, now known as Gadigal Green.

For many decades, reconnecting to the traditional custodianship of this land has evolved in the school through a commitment to socially engaged design education and embedding cultural learning into our units of study. This includes students participating in the Aboriginal Housing Company in the 1990s, to showcasing Indigenous knowledge and research on native Australian grasses and grains in Gamilaraay Country.

For a school dedicated to the study of place, space and their relationships with people, it is fitting that the traditions of knowledge sharing and community feature intrinsically in the life of the school.

Our initiatives

Our engagement initiatives have pushed our understanding of indigenous topics, made us rethink what is possible and provided an outlet for real world projects to be worked on.

Dhuwarr is designed to showcase the importance of Australian native grasses in food production. The installation creates a distinct community experience in the form of placemaking which highlights the significance of Indigenous knowledge and the research being undertaken at the University of Sydney’s Planting Breeding Institute in Narrabri led by scientist Dr Angela Pattison. Dr Pattison’s research focuses on the production and commercial viability of native Australian grasses and grains, cultivated for thousands of years by First Nations people on Gamilaraay Country. The installation brings Indigenous agricultural technology and understanding of nutrition and health together with landscape and environmental design. Learn more.

The school’s finding Country unit of study and Kevin O’Brien’s exhibition in the Tin Sheds Gallery, which seeks to re-engage an Aboriginal origin for architecture (Country) in Australia. It rethinks the colonial grid of the Australian city and through an indigenous lens, seeks to challenge what our understanding of architecture really is.  

An ongoing design studio established in collaboration with the Yarrabah Aboriginal community in Far North Queensland, exploring issues relating to identity, notions of country, story-telling and performance. How do we best tackle the unsatisfactory ‘one size fits all’ approach to Indigenous housing?  

In small regional and rural communities, cultural centres play a vital role, as a meeting place and as a way to foster a sense of community and to share culture. The potential renewal of the Tjulyuru Cultural and Civic Centre provides an exciting opportunity for the community of Warburton to expand facilities to better meet their needs.  

These ongoing interdisciplinary studios have connected University of Sydney students with rural NSW indigenous communities, allowing them to work on real world business and architectural propositions, with meaningful and lasting impacts.

The Linden Observatory and the land it sits on has two-fold significance, as a key heritage item in Australia’s advancement in telescope making and also as an important spiritual site for First Nation’s people. How should we balance these interests for a present-day audience?  

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