Swinburne’s connection to Country elevated with Indigenous Learning Circles
Swinburne University of Technology is encouraging connection to Country and cultural exchange with the construction of Indigenous Learning Circles at each of our three Melbourne campuses.
The revitalisation of key public spaces through Swinburne’s next gen_campus will pay tribute to the traditional owners of the lands on which our Australian campuses are located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.
Designed in collaboration between our Indigenous students and staff, our Moondani Toombadool Centre, Wurundjeri elders, Indigenous Architect Jefa Greenaway, and landscape architect from Mantirri Design Paul Herzich, the Indigenous Learning Circles will integrate aspects of Country, people, culture and art in outdoor spaces.
The projects are being developed at Hawthorn, Croydon and Wantirna, connecting with our existing Aunty Dot Peters AM Flowering Grasslands.
Our Indigenous Learning Circles are part of our next gen_campus projects across Swinburne’s Hawthorn, Wantirna and Croydon campuses.
Places to learn and grow
These spaces will support the engagement and success of different types of learners, including those who face barriers to traditional education and training settings.
They will also get students out of the classroom into an environment encouraging them to think in a different capacity.
This will provide an opportunity for students to reflect, review their goals and to clarify and absorb their understanding of what they've learnt in class.
Designing for Country and community
In addition to being places where people can learn and reflect, our Indigenous Learning Circles will host events with cultural significance and connect with our existing Aunty Dot Peters AM Flowering Grasslands.
Four key principles have guided the design process:
- Connect local community and Country: Embed the principles of self determination to empower, inspire and connect to the local community and Country through spaces of learning, connection, culture and wellbeing.
- Encourage cultural exchange: Provide integrated spaces where people can gather, knowledge can be exchanged and cultural engagement can occur.
- Connect to Aunty Dot Peters AM Flowering Grasslands: Celebrate and link all Auntry Dot Peters AM Flowering Grasslands to all Indigenous Learning Circles and integrate aspects of Aunty Dot’s story through various mediums.
- Amplify Country via cultural expression: Acknowledge Country and Traditional Owners by integrating aspects of Country, people, culture and art to provide a unity across all Indigenous Learning Circles on all campuses.
Drawing on these principles, the design of Indigenous Learning Circles at Hawthorn has been developed to connect with the importance of the Yarra River, and water more broadly, to the Indigenous people.
The development of native and Indigenous planting also stems from this concept of water.
The design aims to connect the Aunty Dot Peters AM Flowering Grasslands with the broader Wakefield Gardens by using the existing amphitheatre space and expanding the concept of gathering.
It uses the ground plane to express cultural iconography and gathering spaces, and looks to increase student amenity by adding seating and rethinking the existing shade structure. It also references the cultural smoking ceremony at its heart embraced by the curved seating for gathering and learning.
The designs for Croydon and Wantirna take the fundamentals from Hawthorn, with individual planting at Croydon being drawn from the more mountainous context, while at from the open plains and river network.
Seating and artworks at all three campuses will inspire reflections on connection to Country and the culture of our traditional owners.
Celebrating the beginning of construction
In November, we celebrated the beginning of construction at our three campuses with staff, students and local Elders. This milestone also marked the beginning of our next gen_campus transformation as the first project to reach construction.
Seeing the project take shape
Swinburne Photomedia student Marcus Lee documented the construction of the Indigenous Learning Circles across our three campuses. The gallery below showcases the journey.
Expressing connection to Country through art
While work was underway on the Indigenous Learning Circles, pop up outdoor galleries featuring Indigenous student artwork beautified the construction fences.
The student artworks featured on the construction fencing were submitted as part of Swinburne’s annual NAIDOC Design Competition run by Student Life and the Moondani Toombadool Centre.
We unveiled the artwork in November, during celebrations to mark the beginning of construction.
Gumbaynggirr / Barkindji creative Emily Gittins enjoys the practice of bringing traditional storytelling through art and contemporary design together to create a synthesis of works that connect to audiences and culture for herself, her loved ones and community.
Growing up on Dja Dja Wurrung country and currently living on the lands of the Wurundjeri People, Emily believes in the importance of traditional storytelling to keep culture alive and thriving.
Emily explains her artwork: "For Our Elders is such an important theme and allows us to recognise the amazing Elders in our lives that have paved the way for us and allowed us in the generations after them to have opportunities to thrive. I wanted to celebrate the Elders in my life, the ones still here with us, the ones who aren't and the ones who never got to be. The guiding light that they've all provided for us from our birth that's allowed us to make our own journeys and connections."
See more of Emily's work on her website emilygittins.com or follow her on Instagram @gittins.emily
"Nyarrəmbən comes from the Wemba Wemba language and can be translated to ‘Old Man’ in English. I chose that title for the artwork because I wanted the artwork to be about Elders in the community, The artwork represents three stages, with the yellow circle representing all ingenious people being born, the next black circle representing their growth into adults and finally the centre white circle representing the Elders that form the centre of the Indigenous community. As you can see in the artwork every stage from the outside to the centre shows the loss of life and how few Indigenous people can survive long enough to become Elders it shows the amount of loss Indigenous communities go through with their lower life expectancy that leads to us having so few Elders."
"The artwork represents the knowledge that has been passed down from Elders throughout time. This knowledge was nearly taken from us and we need to thank our Elders for being brave enough to keep it safe for us so we can pass it down to the next generation."