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UTS Announces First Nations College Design Competition Winner

06 Dec 2023

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has announced the winning design team for its new National First Nations CollegeGreenaway Architects, Warren and Mahoney, and OCULUS.

The college is a transformative, strengths-based initiative to inspire more Indigenous people to enter higher education and celebrate the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture.

Professor Robynne Quiggin, UTS Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement) said Indigenous voices were central to the entire design competition process, in keeping with the University’s philosophy of Indigenous self-determination.

“Because the College will be a place where Indigenous people feel at home and hosts to our non-Indigenous colleagues, it’s critical that we not just ensure the design process is Indigenous-led, but that it also incorporates cultural values and physical features that are important to Indigenous students."

Accordingly, key elements of the design competition brief were prepared by an Indigenous Australian architect; each of the six shortlisted teams appointed an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander architect or suitably qualified designer as Cultural Design Lead who met with local Indigenous knowledge holders for an on-site Welcome Ceremony and an opportunity share local cultural knowledge.

“The College aims to create an environment where students – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – can thrive and celebrate Indigenous identity and culture, while setting a new benchmark for excellence in Indigenous education and research,” Professor Quiggin said.

Cultural Design Lead, Jefa Greenaway of Greenaway Architects, a descendant of the Wailwan and Kamilaroi peoples of northwest NSW, said the College will become a global exemplar of how we think about a college specifically aligned to the needs of First Nations people.

“We’re building on the deep legacy of Indigenous knowledge in order to come up with a new model of a what a First Nations college is in the 21st century,” said Jefa.

“We’ve sought to really infuse the legacy and history of Indigenous people, trailblazers, warriors who have come before, so we’re not starting from a clean slate. We’re acknowledging not only the deeper history, but also the more recent histories around Aboriginal activism and the College’s proximity to places like Redfern, which were very much an incubator for Indigenous activism and civil rights,” he said.

The National First Nations College will be built on Gadigal land at Harris Street, Ultimo. The building will embody architectural and design excellence and promote caring for Country – the complex interconnectedness between Indigenous people, the natural environment and the spiritual world.

As well as being home to students, the building will showcase contemporary Indigenous art, film, performance and storytelling, and strongly acknowledge Traditional Custodians and local communities. The site will also include open space, native gardens, and a new pedestrian through-site link from Harris Street to Omnibus Lane.

The college is planned for completion in 2026/2027.

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