Western Desert Clinics

  • 2020

  • Architectural
    Architectual Design

Designed By:

  • Kaunitz Yeung Architecture

Commissioned By:

Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service

Commonwealth Government Department of Health

Designed In:


“Puntukurnu AMS is a community organisation, with an Aboriginal board. Two clinics were required in parallel, to the highest quality, in the remotest of locations for a modest budget through respect of people, and culture to create a facility with community ownership.

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Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
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  • In two of the remotest communities in the country the challenge was to deliver high quality, robust for the harsh environment and culturally appropriate health buildings to some of the most traditional Aboriginal communities. The communities are 1000km apart by dirt road and 1300 and 1800km from Perth where all construction materials and labour is sourced. Martu communities are some of the most traditional and some of the last to have first contact in Australia, resulting in a close connection to culture and country. As such the project required a high level of community ownership and cultural appropriateness.

  • Prefabrication of all the clinical spaces with precast concrete slabs was central to delivering quality and sustainability. The quality of the interior is equal to Perth where they were built, and the reduced site construction significantly reduced embodied carbon. The shade pergola, flexible glass free solar panels and power load management combine with robust materials to deliver a low operating cost, low maintenance solution. The modular nature with the onsite infill corridors and waiting enabled each building to be customized to the site and in fact any site whilst delivering the benefits of modulation.

  • Meaningful engagement and co-design with the community facilitated cultural appropriateness in the design and engender ownership in the buildings. In doing so the clinics reflected the community model of care placing health and wellness at the centre of community. Art selected by the community from local artists representing culture was central to the architectural response. This combined with a broader health provision have increased presentation rates of 20%+ and reducing the need for the community to leave country. Being forced to leave country has a significant negative effect on wellness which is mitigated by this project.

  • The health provision has broadened services and facilitates Matu staying on country. Being forced to leave country has a significant negative effect on wellness which are mitigated by this project. The art screens counter the utilitarian built environment which gives no inkling of the extraordinary art that is so often created for the pleasure of others. Their incorporation enables the building to pay respect to elders, artists and culture, enriching the community. At night they become a beacon of a brighter future shining into the community. Co-design was underpinned by the architect spending significant time in the communities, facilitating iterative consultation. This enabled impromptu discussions and all voices to be heard from a nomadic culture that is not always comfortable speaking within the mob. The result is a hundred small things that have enriched the architecture by making it subtly more appropriate to place and culture. When the elders were asked by the client at completion if they liked the buildings designed by the architect they responded. “That white guy David, we like him. But he didn’t design the buildings we told him what to design.”