A unique Indigenous landscape and urban design space that illustrates the Kulin Nations’ seven seasons has brought extra colour and life to the heart of RMIT’s City campus.
Ngarara Place was designed by award winning Melbourne-based architecture and interior design firm Greenaway Architects.
The Indigenous garden’s design draws on four key pillars – Connection to Country, Cultural Motifs, Contemporary Aboriginal Art, and Knowledge exchange.
Created, designed and built by a mainly Indigenous team, the unique space includes an Indigenous themed courtyard area; amphitheatre-style seating; sculptural laser-cut smoke pit; and a space to host Indigenous ceremonies, gatherings and events – with the key design narrative of the landscape focusing on the seven seasons of the Kulin Nations.
The initial idea for Ngarara Place came from RMIT’s Ngarara Willim Centre – to build a visible presence and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultures and histories as connected among the lands of the Kulin Nations on which RMIT stands.
Ngarara Willim Centre’s Senior Manager, Stacey Campton, said she and her team felt recognition and acknowledgement of the Aboriginal land on which RMIT sits should not only be allocated to the Indigenous Education Centre, Ngarara Willim Centre or the flagpoles at all campuses.
“This distinctive and special outdoor space will allow for greater access by the wider RMIT community and the Melbourne community – to showcase Indigenous culture and our respect of the standing Australia’s First Nation’s people hold at RMIT,” she said.
A striking feature of the space is the inclusion of an unashamedly contemporary and specifically curated piece of artwork by Aboriginal digital artist Aroha Groves.
Greenaway Architects’ Design Director, Jefa Greenaway, said the artwork, which stands vertically on the adjacent building, was a perfect modern contrast to the garden space.
“The piece evokes nature, place and connections to Country and acts as a backdrop that reinforces the landscape setting in which it is located,” he said.
“Also, importantly, the whole space acts as a place of pause or contemplation, within the hustle and bustle of a busy University counteracted by an intimately scaled landscape setting; and all plants used are endemic and Indigenous species to the local area and include specimens traditionally used for eating, medicine and practical purposes including weaving.
“The pedagogical or information panels also provide a cultural context of interpretation as a means of cultural exchange for people to engage with.”
Ngarara Place was officially opened simultaneously with the launch of the University’s first Reconciliation Action Plan during National Reconciliation Week.
Story: Deborah Sippitts