University of Melbourne Magazine

Research Update: Indigenous Placemaking

  • An Australian survey of Indigenous cultural spaces and facilities in urban and regional areas was recently published by a collaborative team led by ABP’s Associate Professor Anoma Pieris and Dr Janet McGaw.

    The publication, Indigenous Place: Contemporary Buildings, Landmarks and Places of Significance in South East Australia and Beyond, is a collaborative study between the University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Melbourne City Council and the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group.

    In the most comprehensive publication of its kind, the study surveyed artworks, landscape and civic projects, as well as purpose-built Aboriginal cultural centres and museums, in all major Australian cities and several remote and regional areas. The research, in particular, aimed to respond to the lack of Indigenous cultural centres in Australian metropolitan centres, and explored the difficulties faced in building and sustaining them in remote locations.

    Associate Professor Anoma Pieris said Indigenous cultural works were being increasingly included as part of the civic landscape, but that without certain elements, projects ultimately fail.

    “Our study found the creation and maintenance of these cultural spaces required sustained collaborative efforts between state government bodies, Aboriginal communities and local interest groups,” she said.

    “There are many good examples of successful cultural sites but also many that have not succeeded. Without all these key elements, the project ultimately fails,” she said. These include sites that are damaged and the target of hostility, particularly if in regions where land rights have been a prominent issue.

    The study involved preliminary research towards creating a Victorian Indigenous Cultural Education and Knowledge Centre in Melbourne and was part of an Australian Research Council Linkage Project: Indigenous Placemaking in Central Melbourne.