Re-casting terra nullius design-blindness: better teaching of Indigenous Knowledge and protocols in Australian architecture education

  • Richard TuckerEmail author
  • Darryl Low Choy
  • Scott Heyes
  • Grant Revell
  • David Jones


This paper reviews the current status and focus of Australian Architecture programs with respect to Indigenous Knowledge and the extent to which these tertiary programs currently address reconciliation and respect to Indigenous Australians in relation to their professional institutions and accreditation policies. The paper draws upon the findings of a recently completed investigation of current teaching: Re-Casting terra nullius blindness: Empowering Indigenous Protocols and Knowledge in Australian University Built Environment Education. Three data sets from this investigation are analysed: a desktop survey of Australian Built Environment curricula; workshops with tertiary providers and students, professional practitioners and representatives of three Built Environment professional institutes; and an online survey of Australian Built Environment students (of which their discipline could be isolated) ascertaining what is currently being taught and learned and what changes would be feasible within the constraints of courses from their perspective. Detailed descriptions are also provided of pedagogic improvements informed by the project findings. The findings suggest minimal current exposure of Architecture students to Indigenous Knowledge content beyond voluntary engagement in self-chosen thesis projects and elective (including studio) subjects led by passionate but largely unsupported teachers championing Indigenous issues; a paucity of teaching echoed by practitioners and accreditors who acknowledge lack of expertise in this area across the profession. This paper discusses ways in which Indigenous Knowledge might be better acknowledged, respected and introduced to Australian Architecture students’ education. Also discussed are teaching strategies with global relevance.


Indigenous Knowledge systems Australian Architecture education Built-Environment 



This paper is part of a research project funded by the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching entitled Re-casting Terra Nullius Blindness: Empowering Indigenous Protocols and Knowledge in Australian University Built Environment Education, (ID12-2418) and has been subject to ethics approvals by the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee and the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment Human Ethics Committee. Acknowledgment is also due to a raft of Built Environment academics and students around Australia who shared their thoughts and insights, including encouragement from staff at the OLT, but also to the Reference Panel (of Professor Mark Rose, Rueben Berg, Ed Wensing and Dr Elizabeth Grant) who contributed their regular detailed insight and overview of the project, and to the evaluation of the independent project reviewers, Professor Marcia Devlin and Dr. Sandy O’Sullivan.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Architecture and Built EnvironmentDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.School of EnvironmentGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of Arts and DesignUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.School of Indigenous StudiesThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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