Together with Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation and the Museum of Freedom and Tolerance, irRelevance design activism architecture studio at Curtin University questioned the traditional trajectories of Indigenous spatial practice analysis.

What does architecture of relevance look like for country and people?  How do we find new architectural identities based on Indigenous spatial practices?  How do we understand the memories, dreams and life histories of this land with empathy?  What does pain feel like?

Explore below a journey that speaks of unresolved and unspoken issues of an under-served community and its innate love of land, and the work of 220 built environment students to find a unique spatial identity for Australia shelter via the Culture Annex for Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation’s Kyana Indigenous Art Collection.

This project involves the active redevelopment of a heritage-listed building originally used as part of an orphanage for Aboriginal youth.  Contested as a place of abuse and suicide yet emerging as a place of healing, the precinct and the buildings are living testimony of compromised landscape for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

The installations are work-in-progress insights to investigate meanings of land and people, interchangeably used in Noongar terminology for both earth and pregnant female.

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth.  The media has the power to withhold the truth from history and therefore, we have explored the journey of enabling the truth to be recognised.  Everyone has a distinctive voice, when you find it, you will find the light from the darkness.  Your story will be told.”

Resurgence: “With respect to the Noongar people and knowing how their culture and tradition was faded by Western culture, our installation tries to evoke the resurgence of the Noongar people and their culture through their land.  The installation shows the transition of honky nut colour from white, brown too green.  White representing how Indigenous culture is being colonised and taken over. White colour slows fades revealing its natural green colour, hence the rebirth of authentic Aboriginal culture.  This is the representation of the powerful part yarning plays in returning truth, honest and spirit of Indigenous peoples and their cultural history.”

Regrowth: “From understanding the deeper meaning of this site, it is clear there is a disconnection from traditional cultural beliefs and what exists today.  Our installation captures the disconnect from spirituality and loss of identity due to the introduction of Western culture.  However the abstract forms of nature demonstrate the ability of re-growth, through the natural cycle of decay and renewal.”

Parasite: “We believe that one’s self, society and environment can be enriched by mutualistic relationships as ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.  The entwined and mutualistic relationship between the land and its Aboriginal people is echoed in our physically manifested response, showcasing its relevance and appreciating its balance.  By partaking in the act of change to the mutualistic representation, the view becomes aware of their power to impact the type of relationship we share between people, culture and our natural and built environment.”


Layers of memory: “Places are always associated with different memories for different groups of people.  Memories essentially become layered upon a site over time; covering, contrasting and contesting each other to become the dominant or obscured narrative.  It is with this understanding that the installation intends to symbolise the acts of uncovering hidden memories and narratives, highlighting hegemonies imposed upon such things and more importantly, revealing truth in a world where authenticity is often forgotten.”

Lapses: “Across personal, local and global scales, it’s hard to live in this world without experiencing some sort of hurt.  It is important we learn to heal from this hurt, sometimes with the aid of time.  Through this healing, we allow ourselves to grow, in many ways making us stronger than we were originally.”

Hanging Fabric: “Cultural issues are always being picked apart and analysed from the mindset of other cultures.  This installation attempts to manifest the way in which the people of this site have been displaced, through a vessel in which the objects of memory are carried…. this is a commentary on how we treat the stories and cultures of others, stories that perhaps do not desire to be pulled out of the earth and dissected, but be laid to rest on the ground again.”

The Forsaken Land: “It is clear that the acts of colonisation have resulted in Indigenous people becoming imprisoned in their own land.  It is clear that the way for the richness of Indigenous culture to survive into the future is through the telling of stories, stories which have been largely left out of the Western education system, bringing recognition and understanding of the culture of our First Nations people.  We are seeking to bring this awareness and encourage engagement in the stories of Indigenous culture through the medium of the installation.”