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Immersive hands-on learning at First Peoples Architecture event

Beginnings – First Peoples Architecture presented by the RAA, took place 19th-21st October. Hands-on in its learnings, attendees also gained CPD Points.

Immersive hands-on learning at First Peoples Architecture event

Photograph by Tom Roe.

Gathering at Coolendel Camp on the beautiful Shoalhaven River, ‘Beginnings – First Peoples Architecture’ posited a weekend of immersive hands-on learning. It was a three-day program in October and new images by photographer Tom Roe from the event are now here for us to enjoy.

For this event the Regional Architecture Association (RAA) has collaborated with Gadhungal Marring (Dharrawal Traditional Custodians) and Dharrawal Yuin Raymond Timbery as one of three creative directors of the event. The program will deliver yarning circles, workshops and discussions around First Nations cultural heritage.

Ghadungal Marring.

There will be a Corrobboree, dialogue with Elders, camping, campfires and a cold plunge into the Shoalhaven. It is however far from prescriptive with a day of rolling workshops that include weaving, fish trap and gunyah building, historical relevance discussions, the history of Coolendel and passing knowledge.

There program also includes presentations and discussions by informed contributors including Trent Jansen, who has been working in collaboration with Indigenous designers, makers and artists for many years.

Related: Designing on Country: Trent Jansen on practice and collaboration

Beginnings at Shoalhaven Coolendel.

Coolendel Campground is located just west of Nowra on the shores of the Shoalhaven River. It is one of the central meeting places between communities on Country along the South Coast. Moreover, it continues to be a central place for gathering and the perfect place to forge deep connections between Country, architecture, and heritage, while creating pathways and actions for a connected architectural future, as the event strives to do.

The event also looks to play a transformative role in further bridging the gap between existing Indigenous culture, our understanding of heritage and how we better articulate this experience through practice.

Ghadungal Marring Building.

The key contributors to the event include one of the three creative directors, Dharrawal Yuin Raymond Timbery, a descendant of the Dharrawal and Jaitmatang language group of the Bidjigal and Manero tribe.

Having grown up in the small village of Huskisson in Jervis Bay, Timbery has continued to live near the ocean, where he has learnt traditional ways of song and dance and how people communicate through sharing stories. 

Raymond Timbery.

Renee McGuinn, director of MAAD Studio, is also a creative director of the program. An advocate for regional emerging practices while adding to the faces of regional female practitioners. Her involvement with Beginnings is to bring Indigenous culture to the forefront of the conversation, helping practitioners understand where culture and heritage fits in the context of architecture, now and into the future.

Renee McGuinn.

The third creative director is Wesley Hindmarsh, a registered architect who studied at the University of Tasmania and the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. Having worked internationally for Alvaro Siza of Portugal from 2003-2006, he returned to Australia to found Dock4 Architects in Hobart and Melbourne. In 2018 he relocated to Kangaroo Valley where he started Local Architect South Coast.

Wesley Hindmarch.

As the primary collaborating body, Gadhungal Marring is highly regarded for its facilitation and delivery of cultural programs and experiences on Dharrawal Dhurga land. In this capacity Dharrawal Yuin Raymond Timbery along with elders Uncle Steve, Uncle PC, Uncle Paul, Aunty Lauren and Aunty Nat will lead the Friday workshops where they will impart their knowledge as custodians of the Dharawal.

Dharrawal Yuin Raymond Timbery will guide guests through a Welcome to Country, and each of the Uncles will yarn and introduce making of gunyas and fish traps, while the Aunties lead traditional weaving.

Ghadungal Marring.

Also based on the NSW South Coast, in the town of Thirroul, Trent Jansen is a designer of enormous talent and his Saturday address is not to be missed. “Trent has a great deal of respect for cultural heritage and is extraordinarily thorough in incorporating cultural identity and history into his works … his collaboration with Broached Commissions has the same kind of take on defining the Australian design identity as Droog has done for the Dutch design identity,” says Marcel Wanders.

Trent Jansen.

On the panel discussion around continuity, heritage and place will be Wagga Wagga-based architect and accredited heritage advisor Noel Thompson, and Lee Hillam. Hillam is a familiar name in regional architecture as co-director of Dunn and Hillam Architects, she is also on the Board of Southern Cross Housing. That said, her urban profile is also high through a variety of roles with the GANSW centred around Design Excellence and her instrumental role in producing the Design Guide for Heritage for the Office of Environment and Heritage.

RAA events are open to associated disciplines and interested community members as well as RAA members. There will be a total of nine formal CPD points available across the event: with one on Thursday, six on Friday, and two on Saturday.

More on the Regional Architecture Association

The mandate of the Regional Architecture Association is supporting regional architectural practitioners to collectively strengthen the practice of architecture, and to advocate for better understanding of the value and benefits of architecture, within local communities. In 2021, after devastating bushfires, floods and a global pandemic, a group of like-minded regional architects saw opportunity and a need, to mobilise other architects to form a new, member driven organisation with a focus on, and concern for, positive change in the most important area of future urban growth in Australia, the regions.

Beginnings – First Peoples’ Architecture was presented by the Regional Architecture Association, taking place at Coolendel Camp, Buangla, NSW, 19-21 October 2023.

Regional Architecture Association


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