The University of Melbourne is proud to recognise the Indigenous heritage of the land upon which we teach, learn and gather. The New Student Precinct site is situated on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, who have resided upon these lands for over 60,000 years. Connection to Country is vitally important to Indigenous identity.   In the context of any re-development on the University of Melbourne campuses, it is important that every decision that is made takes Indigenous perspectives into consideration.

Signature Project for Reconciliation Action Plan 3

The New Student Precinct is a Signature Project for the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP 3).The RAP 3 outlines the University-wide vision of reconciliation, and the commitment of the University to employ expertise and resources to make a sustained contribution to Indigenous development. RAP 3 has been classified as an Elevate RAP by Reconciliation Australia. An Elevate RAP signifies that an organisation has made a sustained contribution towards achieving reconciliation in the past and recognises that organisation as a leader in their sector for creating cultural change. The University’s Elevate RAP marks a significant moment in the history of the University as we strive towards meaningful reconciliation.

The RAP 3 has key areas of focus: Leadership for Change, Our Place, Purposeful Partnerships and International Engagement. Furthermore, the Precinct will be focusing on the key themes of Respect and Relationships.

The New Student Precinct sits under ‘Our Place’ in RAP 3, which denotes the University-wide commitment to improve the lived experience of the University’s Indigenous community by shaping the physical environment and promoting cultural awareness and recognition. The Precinct aims to achieve transformational change and deep cultural engagement, through celebrating the multi-faceted aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through the built environment, instilling a sense of belonging and affirming the traditional owner’s Connection to Country.

New Student Precinct RAP 3 Target Measures

  • Ensure that the celebration of Indigenous cultures is part of the Precinct's programming and activation.
  • Co-create design principles that respond to Indigenous recognition with students and subject matter experts, with the aim of adopting these principles as part of the project.
  • Commence development of way-finding that promotes a critical engagement with Indigenous cultures, making appropriate stories of culture and place visible to the University and broader community.
  • Commence the co-creation of the design and development of a new home in the Precinct for Murrup Barak Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development as a signature space, creating an environment that supports the needs of Indigenous staff and students, Traditional Owners and Elders, and the local community members.
  • Commence development of a naming and recognition strategy for the buildings in the Precinct aligned with the revised University Naming Policy.

Indigenous Engagement

The New Student Precinct Project Team has conducted a series of co-creation workshops with Indigenous stakeholder groups to review and provide comment on the design of the Precinct. These workshops involved students, staff and Traditional Owner groups, and will be run by Indigenous architect, educator, writer, presenter and advocate, Jefa Greenaway of Greenaway Architects, in collaboration with Greenshoot Consulting. The team at Greenshoot provide uniquely tailored engagement strategies that align project and organisational strategy to the people and communities that these strategies intersect.  They do so by creating the space for deep listening, where the aspirations of individuals and communities are given primacy in supporting user centred decision making.

Greenaway Architects and Greenshoot Consulting have developed a unique consulting approach to enable the fusion of architectural design and engagement consulting methodology to support genuine co-creation. Their work includes cross-cultural vision and strategy design, and culturally responsive stakeholder engagement to support architectural project design and delivery. In supporting the aspirations of the New Student Precinct, the collective team are dedicated to delivering a meaningful outcome that embodies the University of Melbourne’s aspirations for comprehensive Indigenous engagement and place making. Watch the video below to learn more about the Indigenous engagement approach and outcomes, as shared by Jefa Greenaway.

Pillars of Engagement

The Project's approach to engagement is based on four key Indigenous Design pillars, which align with the principles outlined in the International Indigenous Design Charter, and include:

Connection to Country
There are many ways in which one can enact Connection to Country, physically, environmentally, practically or spiritually. Through deep appreciation of the importance of Connecting to Country, this pillar values the nuances and specificity of the environment in which the project sits and demonstrate respect to the Traditional Owners of the land; past, present and emerging.

Living History and Memory
The colonisation of Australia has had a profound impact on the living memory and history of Indigenous Australians.  This pillar reflects a responsibility to meaningfully engage with this living memory and history through deep listening and careful exploration of the layers of complexity that inform a diverse and contemporary Indigenous identity

Art and Artefact
This pillar seeks to de-construct the notion of art and artefact representing a ‘stones and bones’ approach to Indigenous design. Here the process of engagement is as important as the physical manifestation of the engagement in the built and natural environment.  The process itself becomes the artefact.

Connection to People
Indigenous people are connected to their mob and their Country, in solidarity through common experience in a post colonised world, locally and internationally. This pillar seeks to acknowledge the layers of complexity associated in understanding the connections between Indigenous and Indigenous or Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the context of Indigenous Design, locally and within a global context.

Key Engagement Outcomes

  • Frank and Fearless Feedback
    The aim is to create culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share their feedback and have their thoughts heard. Each individual participant is valued. The Project Team will ensure that the spaces we create for engagement are respectful and take into account any and all feedback gathered.
  • Indigenous Led Outcomes
    By partnering with the end users, the Design Team will create spaces that reflect the needs of the broader community. The design of the spaces within the Precinct, particularly Murrup Barak will be guided by the feedback given to the team during the consultation process.
  • A Place for Our Indigenous Community
    The Precinct will be home to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from many countries across Australia. It is important that we acknowledge this in both the design of the Precinct and the consultation process.
  • Remembering the Past to Inform the Future
    The University of Melbourne has a long, rich history. The Project Team and Design Team alike have acknowledged that there are troublesome histories that must be challenged to achieve meaningful reconciliation. Part of our engagement process will be discussing the more difficult histories of the University. This will allow us to shape our future in a positive way and create a place in which the University community can all feel proud.
  • Leadership through Transformational Change
    The Precinct presents the University with a chance to embrace reconciliation through urban design. There is an opportunity for the University to embrace this approach to co-creation and co-design for future developments and ensure that Reconciliation is a driving force in all future projects.

Indigenous Activations

Outdoor Gallery

The Project has established a gallery space on Porter’s Lane to display the work of students and emerging artists. During National Reconciliation Week each year, the Project commissions new artwork by Indigenous student artists that is curated by Indigenous students. The launch of the gallery is accompanied by artists talks and music, with all members of the University community invited to attend. Over the past four years, 15 Indigenous artists have produced 42 exhibited works.

Next Wave

The Project has engaged in a partnership with Next Wave to develop a program of temporary public artworks, workshops and mentorships to the University, connecting students with leading professional artists. Next Wave is an arts organisation dedicated to supporting emerging artists and whose work is underpinned by a commitment to cultural diversity, environmental sustainability and inclusion. To celebrate National Reconciliation Week 2018, Next Wave presented a series of video artworks by First Nations artists. A broad range of works were presented over two days, ranging from satire, re-enactment, documentation, humour and experimentation.

Living Pavilion

The Living Pavilion (1 May - 17 May 2019) was a transdisciplinary project connecting Indigenous knowledge, ecological science, sustainable design and participatory arts. The New Student Precinct partnered with Living Pavilion to temporarily transform  the landscape at the site of the future home of the Melbourne University's Institute for Indigenous Development, Murrup Barak, with plantings, artworks, performances, talks and gathering spaces that celebrate the natural environment.

The design, development and curation of The Living Pavilion were guided by the same pillars of Indigenous engagement, developed by Greenshoot Consulting, that have governed the Indigenous engagement strategy for the New Student Precinct. The Living Pavilion was a co-production and collaboration with THRIVE Hub (Faculty of Achitecture, Building and Planning), Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub (CAUL) of the National Environmental Science Program, the New Student Precinct, and CLIMARTE’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 Festival. The Living Pavilion’s major horticultural and design partners are Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) and Ecodynamics. Learn more about the Living Pavilion here.

Indigenous Artwork for the Future Precinct

The project team has identified three opportunities to engage students from the Wilin Centre to create a range of digital artworks for interior and exterior elements that will be installed by Kane Construction.

Recognising the incredibly diverse nature of First Nations peoples within the continent of Australia, these artworks will help to anchor the Indigenous narrative of the project into the landscape and the built form and provide a strong precedent for embedding Indigenous cultural heritage into future projects. Importantly it allows our Indigenous students to gain a sense of ownership over the site as an Indigenous place and provides tangible opportunities for our non-Indigenous students to engage with Indigenous arts and culture.

Bespoke carpets – A digitised artwork will be developed into a bespoke carpet for one of the foyers of the new Arts and Cultural Building. This piece will have high impact value and be visible to large numbers of people daily.

Tree grates and channels – Six large custom-built steel tree grates and channels are planned for installation in the Winter Garden (north-west courtyard) of 1888 Building. Digital renders of student artworks will be incorporated into the grates and channels during the forging process. The project also presents an opportunity for a student to curate the selection of artworks into one cohesive piece.

Memento bricks – The 2021 cohort of Indigenous Students will be engaged to integrate a memento from their Country or family history into a bespoke brick to be integrated into the Welcome Ground in the Frank Tate Building. This installation will form part of a larger piece of work that aims to reconcile the problematic history and name of the building by reinforcing the site as an Indigenous place. Bricks will be created using glass, clay, bronze or any other appropriate material with a proposal to facilitate the studio at the workshop at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music.

Our connection to land has never changed and it's never waivered. We want this new place to connect our people from all around Australia, to use elements of our culture to take back parts of the land in a creative way. Student feedback in the Indigenous Engagement workshop