NSW Aboriginal Child & Family Centres
NSW Government Architects Office
COMMENDATION: CATEGORY 5: EDUCATION INITIATIVE / DESIGN SOLUTION FOR AN INNOVATIVE PROGRAM
19 Hunter Street Gunnedah, NSW 2380
NSW Government Architects Office
$17,500,000 for 6 centres
These three projects have been chosen as representative of a program of 6 Aboriginal Child and Family Centres designed by Gao as part of the Federal Government ‘s Closing the Gap Initiative.
The Aboriginal Childcare Centre submission illustrated comprehensive pre-design planning and a robust educational specification.
The site development in unique settings catered to the local culture and needs of each location and reinforced environmental needs sympathetically.
Educational needs were fulfilled as well as recognition of local community needs. Thorough attention was given to interior fit-out and furniture to support learning effectively. The learning nooks provide exciting spaces for activities and add to the overall design.
The external presentation and integration of outdoor spaces fits well with the total environment.
The finished form of each centre warrants congratulation of the NSW Government Architect’s Office in designing and delivering exciting centres for Early Childhood Education in remote locations.
The Aboriginal Child and Family Centres are a result of the 2008 CLOSING THE GAP initiative. This is a strategy that aims to reduce Indigenous disadvantage with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement, and employment outcomes.
In 2011 GAO were engaged to develop design guidelines for a unique program of Aboriginal Child and Family Centres (ACFC) within NSW. A key aim was that the guidelines become an essential tool for Aboriginal community consultation, brief definition and to benchmark design concepts. GAO were engaged to design 4 ACFC ‘s across country NSW in Gunnedah, Lightning Ridge, Brewarrina and Nowra and 2 ACFCs at Ballina and Doonside. An in-house studio was formed to share information and combine design strategies. This studio was led by 2 indigenous architects with 4 other project architects. The studio focussed on the following key issues:
– Community consultation and ownership. This required engagement with the Local Reference Group to gain an appreciation of the broad and specific needs of the local community
– Culturally sensitive design
– Environmentally sensitive and sustainable design
– Operational issues – safety, security, service delivery
– Simple construction to create local employment opportunities
– Opportunities for local indigenous employment and skills development in the construction and operational phases
– Maximise building within limited budget.
The driver for these projects has been the need to improve indigenous health and education outcomes from an early age. Each project is unique – reflecting the local indigenous communities. The centres have all been designed with a strong reference to ‘place ‘.
Budget constraints resulted in a strategy to reinvent traditional construction materials and methods and low cost cladding to deliver welcoming, simply but beautifully detailed, purpose designed non institutional buildings.
Furniture consultation provided an opportunity to select furniture materials and colours that suited the needs and design aesthetics of each centre. Selections were made in close relation to the local indigenous landscape, flora and fauna and other elements of significance important each community. Playful colours and textural materials selections offered a stimulating and dynamic environment to further encourage learning experiences and connection to culture.