Gondwana Link

Australia's First Bush University

Posted by: Keith Bradby

Published: 25/11/2017


Nowanup Bush University Ideas Competition

Friday was a wonderful and very important day. 50 of us gathered in the heart of Perth at the Old Boys School to start designing the next phase of Nowanup, the Noongar cultural camp in the middle of Gondwana Link's Fitz-Stirling section.

Through our support for the extraordinary Eugene Eades, we are now working with Eugene and senior Curtin University staff on what will be an Australian, if not global first – a ‘Bush University’ where teaching is done ‘Noongar way’. Curtin have brought together an impressive array of staff, students and leading architectural firms in a design competition for the facility, and Friday was the day Eugene and Professor Simon Forrest not only shared with all of us their vision for the Bush University, but we heard an amazing array of heartfelt experience from the staff and students who have already been through courses and camps at Nowanup.
"Through Noongar ways of learning... the Bush University will help Noongar and other cultures strengthen relationships through understanding of Country and each other..." said Professor Simon Forrest 2017, Nyoongar Elder in Residence Curtin University.

A big thank you to the Curtin Cross-Disciplinary project team of Associate Professor Khoa Do (Fellow Curtin Academy, Architecture), Dr Emil Jonescu and Mr Leon Wong (Construction Management), Ms Eileen Chan (Office of the DVC International), Mr Chris Leong, Mr Alejandro Gil Herrero, and Mr Matthaeus Tan (Architecture), Ms Joyce Kho, Ms Claire Buscombe (Post graduate Students, Architecture), Ms Sara Muna’am (Curtin Architecture Student Association – CASA), Mr Sam Chapman (Student Organisation National Australia – SONA), and to the architectural firms guiding the student program: Hassell, Woods Bagot, Cameron Chisholm Nicol, TAG Architects, SPH Architecture + Interiors and of course the Curtin Architecture and Interior Architecture students themselves.

Speakers on the day, all of who are involved in moving the Bush University to this important stage, included Professor Simon Forrest, Dr Michelle Johnston, Ms Linda Adnyana, Professor Steve Mickler and Ms Veronica Goerke . The Nowanup story, so far, was presented by Eugene Eades from Nowanup, Keith and Amanda from Gondwana Link, Anne Smith from Greening Australia and Rod Safstrom from Friends of Nowanup.

The next morning's message from Eugene was: “The meeting and all the energy was so moving but powerful - I could feel it. Those young students from all groups was so into asking so many questions it made me think through all that will come out of Nowanup in the future. I could see future Noongar youth coming through Nowanup Bush University and going on to mainstream Uni to become anything they want . I’m all pumped . A great team and work well done."

The Media Release from Curtin was: “
24 November 2017 
Curtin students design new home for ‘bush’ university 
Curtin University architecture students will design a new base for Nowanup Bush University, an important meeting place for Nyungar people located 50 kilometres west of Bremer Bay. 
The bush university concept, initiated by Professor Simon Forrest from Curtin University, Nowanup Nyungar Elder Mr Eugene Eades and Gondwana Link CEO Mr Keith Bradby, aims to provide a bush setting for transformational learning. 
Curtin University’s Elder-in-Residence Professor Simon Forrest said the project offered a unique opportunity for five groups of Curtin University architecture students to each work with an architecture firm to create a new design and model for the facilities at Nowanup. 
“We are always looking for innovative ways to educate students and this project will allow students to learn in an unusual and significant setting, surrounded by Indigenous culture and history,” Professor Forrest said. 
“Once the suggested designs are submitted by the five student groups, the most appropriate design will be selected and the winning designs will be announced in April 2018. 
“The project has a range of potential collaborations for student groups across the University, which will initially begin with the architecture students, and may see engineering students involved in site works and other aspects of the facility.” 
Once the building works are completed, Nowanup Bush University will incorporate various programs for university students, school groups, and community groups to interact and learn in an environment that is delivered in and from a Nyungar point of view and principles. 
Under Mr Eades’ leadership, Nowanup has been used as a cultural knowledge camp as an alternative to detention for young Indigenous people since 2009. 
The 750 ha Nowanup property was one of the first purchased to help achieve the Gondwana Link project, which aims to reconnect native habitats across the South-West of Western Australia. 
Gondwana Link is considered one of the largest and most ambitious conservation projects in Australia’s history, with its goal to restore 1,000 kilometres of continuous habitat.”

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