In summary

  • Swinburne University of Technology has launched a new Indigenous Building Co-Fab initiative

  • The initiative will tackle housing affordability and sustainability by creating innovative pathways to upskilling communities themselves  

  • The project will establish a living laboratory – a construction facility displaying and trialling cutting edge technologies, including 3D printed houses - to explore community-led building, with a focus on regional and remote areas

Swinburne has launched the Indigenous Building Co-Fab (IBC) initiative in a bid to address the pressing issues of housing affordability and sustainability for Indigenous communities.  

This groundbreaking project seeks to revolutionise the world of building construction by incorporating cutting-edge technologies and locally sourced materials into sustainable homes, co-built by local communities.  

“Housing needs to be done differently to meet the needs of Indigenous peoples in diverse settings,” said Professor John Evans, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Engagement, who announced the initiative.

“The Indigenous Building Co-Fab (IBC) is a radical reimagining of construction, particularly for remote and regional communities. The living laboratory will adopt a bottom-up approach, involving direct participation from culturally and economically diverse groups,” said Professor Evans. 

“It’s not just a construction project; it's a catalyst for transformative change, aiming to redefine the future of Indigenous housing in Australia.”

By harnessing the latest in innovative, low-cost materials and technology, this initiative paves the way for transdisciplinary research and reskilling, offering a novel approach in building and community participation.

Swinburne's new Indigenous Building Co-Fab initiative will establish a living laboratory.

Living Laboratory to showcase the latest in cutting-edge technology 

The IBC is set to make waves with its plan to establish a living laboratory at a Swinburne campus. This collaborative space will bring together a diverse mix of researchers, educators and community members to explore new construction techniques and strategies.  

Professor of Urban Futures, Mark Burry AO, says the initiative will push the boundaries of housing construction techniques. 

“The initiative actively focuses on practical and cost-effective solutions, leveraging digital fabrication technologies - including 3D printing - to embrace the principles of Manufacturing 4.0.” 

“This will increase the speed and quality of building outcomes,” said Professor Burry.  

“A lot has changed in terms of construction innovation research in recent years – but not so much in the way we construct our homes.  The challenge is translating our cutting-edge research from university labs to the field. To tackle this, we are co-creating innovative pathways to skill acquisition through our VET partners and collaborating with remote communities”.

Housing challenges to be met with innovative solutions

Overcrowding, supply shortages and poor construction are all features of the housing crisis disproportionately impacting Indigenous communities.

By integrating university research and vocational education for the building trades, the IBC offers a unique platform to implement culturally responsive housing solutions with a lens of self-determination.  

The IBC initiative will focus on addressing skills development, funding models, governance structures and planning law adjustments to ensure a comprehensive and sustainable approach. The project will offer communities with tangible solutions and help drive positive change throughout Australia.

Primary objectives of the IBC

The Indigenous Building Co-Fab (IBC) is guided by five primary objectives:

  1. Overcoming barriers: Identify and overcome barriers hindering the widespread adoption of advanced construction technologies for and by Indigenous communities. 

  2. Innovative technologies: Develop and test innovative building materials and technologies that can significantly reduce construction costs and enhance the environmental performance of community buildings and homes. 

  3. Community participation: Communities upskilling to participate physically in the construction process, fostering a sense of communal ownership and collaboration.

  4. Transdisciplinary collaboration: Create new pathways for transdisciplinary collaboration among architects, designers, engineers, builders, sociologists, ethnographers, anthropologists and economists. 

  5. Next gen_ education: Inspire and equip the next generation of VET and university researchers with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle housing affordability and sustainability challenges.


The Moondani Toombadool Centre is responsible for leading all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters at Swinburne. Moondani Toombadool means ‘embracing teaching and learning’ in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri People. In 2022, Swinburne established the National Centre for Reconciliation Practice, an initiative focused on fostering systemic change.

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