Groote Archipelago Housing Programme

  • 2022

  • Social Impact

Over a period of seven years, TheFulcrum.Agency have been working with the Anindilyakwa Land Council to improve life for the Indigenous population on the Groote Archipelago through better designed housing. The work is extraordinary, combining long-term community planning and cross-cultural co-design processes.

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Image: Bo Wong
Image: Bo Wong
Image: Bo Wong
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  • On our first trip, we were presented with a Strategic Plan that declared 100 houses needed to be built. We were asked, where should they be built... and how quickly can you do it? The first thing we did was take a step back; we wanted to find out what was needed and what has/hasn’t worked in the past. Critically, we wanted to understand why. Through conversation we discovered that people felt disengaged by earlier housing delivery processes. Our job became to develop a program that enabled community leadership, empowerment, and control over the design and delivery of new housing.

  • The project required building long-term relationships with community. We met with people one-on-one, hosted BBQ’s and held meetings outside. We learnt about Anindilyakwa culture. We developed iPad surveys to gather information and employed local people to conduct the surveys in Language. This cost a fraction of what it would to fly someone in and built community investment in the project. Finally, we advised: ‘build no more than 6–10 houses per year and design them so that local contractors can do the work. Build for the long-term. Ensure all houses are culturally and climatically appropriate and delivered through genuine community co-design.’

  • By working with community over several years, we were able to enhance built-environment literacy and empower people to be proactively involved in the housing design. The community was involved in the whole process, from lot allocations to specific design issues, to handover. This ensured that the housing facilitated healthy living from both a physical and cultural perspective. The community is better connected to the project because their input was fundamental at every stage. ‘It’s important for Indigenous people that we have our own housing committees, chairs and directors. Strong leaders, strong voices.’ Elaine Mamarika, Director, Anindilyakwa Housing Aboriginal Corporation

  • The following points outline the key design features that emerged as a result of the community co-design process: •Adaptable housing plans allow for fluid occupation and the potential for changing family structures. •Well considered detailing, material selections and fixture scheduling to ensure quality construction and reduced maintenance and repairs •Enhanced thermal insulation, the capturing of local breezes through better orientation and a response to indoor/outdoor living patterns means the houses are better suited to the climate and are more comfortable. •General health and wellness will be improved through less exposure to mould and the installation of appropriate health hardware. •The local economy will be boosted through the training and contribution of local Indigenous construction and maintenance teams. •They don’t look like standard housing nor a passing phase. These houses are elegant but at the same time perfectly fit within the local context.