Swinburne University of Technology is celebrating connection to Country and cultural exchange with new Indigenous Learning Circles at our three Melbourne campuses.
The revitalisation of these key public spaces through Swinburne’s next gen_campus transformation pay tribute to the traditional owners of the lands on which our Australian campuses are located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.
The projects have been developed with Indigenous partners and community, designed by Indigenous Architects Greenaway and constructed by an Indigenous builder Rork Projects.
These are study and reflection spaces designed to enhance student engagement and bring learning outside the classroom.
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.
Hawthorn's Wakefield Gardens before and after the construction of the Indigenous Learning Circle. Image: Marcus Lee, Swinburne Photomedia student.
Places to learn and grow
These spaces will support the engagement and success of all vocational and higher education students, acknowledging that not all learners are best suited to a traditional setting.
They will get students out of the classroom into an environment encouraging them to think in a different capacity.
Swinburne Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pascale Quester said Swinburne is putting its words into action through its ongoing commitment to advancing reconciliation.
“Our Indigenous Learning Circles are a physical embodiment of Swinburne’s work to share Indigenous culture and promote Indigenous engagement not just with our students and staff, but the local communities in which we are part of too,” she said.
“This significant milestone will forever change the landscape of our three campuses and strengthens our connection, as a place of teaching and learning, to the traditional owners, who have been teaching and learning on this country for tens-of-thousands of years.”
“These spaces will also encourage our students to think differently, reflect, and to further their understanding of what they are learning at Swinburne.”
Completed Indigenous Learning Circle at Croydon campus. Image: Marcus Lee, Swinburne Photomedia student.
Designing for Country and community
Designed in collaboration between our Indigenous students and staff, our Moondani Toombadool Centre, Wurundjeri elders, and Indigenous Architect Jefa Greenaway, the Indigenous Learning Circles integrate aspects of Country, people, culture and art in outdoor spaces.
The design is anchored across four key principles:
- 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 Aunty 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.
Completed Indigenous Learning Circle at Wantirna campus. Image: Marcus Lee, Swinburne Photomedia student.
Five cultural markers design by Uncle Colin Junior feature in the Indigenous Learning Circle at Hawthorn. Artwork on these pillars depicts the seven seasons observed by the Kulin Nation.
From Biderap’s hot, dry weather to Buath Gurru’s blooming wildflowers, these seasons guide cultural practices, resource availability and connection to Country.
Each is marked by unique environmental characteristics and contributes to the Kulin Nation’s rich ecological and cultural tapestry.
Swinburne Chief Operating Officer Nancy Collins said the newly completed learning spaces were designed with a vision of strengthening connection to community and bringing the local community on to our campuses, showing our commitment to sharing learnings and connections.
“The design of the learning circles at all three campuses are intended to inspire reflections on connection to Country and culture of our traditional owners through aspects such as Indigenous planting,” she said.
“The landscaping at Hawthorn references the importance of water and connection to the Birrarung valued by Indigenous people, while also expanding on the concept of gathering as it connects to the Aunty Dot Peters AM Flowering Grasslands.”
“Native Silver Wattle has been used as inspiration for the seating and fire pit at Hawthorn’s Indigenous Learning Circle because it is a valued and multifaced the plant to the Wurundjeri people.”
Hawthorn Indigenous Learning Circle Cultural Markers. Image: Marcus Lee, Swinburne Photomedia student.
Building on our demonstrated commitments
Swinburne was the first Australian university to achieve ‘Elevate’ status from Reconciliation Australia for our Reconciliation Action Plan and have been vocal supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart since 2019.
Swinburne Pro Vice Chancellor, Indigenous Engagement, and proud Wiradjuri man, Professor John Evans said the new outdoor spaces compliment the existing work Swinburne is doing to embed Indigenous culture and self-determination at the core of our vision and community.
“I am proud to be part of a university that prioritises meaningful Indigenous engagement, and continues to create a culturally safe place for Indigenous staff, students, alumni and partners,” he said.
“These new spaces signify our commitment to drive reconciliation and work with Indigenous communities to create positive impact.”
Indigenous Learning Circle under construction at Croydon Campus (left) and Wantirna campus (right). Images: Marcus Lee, Swinburne Photomedia student.
Join us to celebrate
We will be marking the opening of these new spaces with food, music, prizes and more at the sites on each campus – on 29 February at Hawthorn, 7 March at Croydon and 13 March at Wantirna.
Use the following link for details and to register to attend our campus celebrations: