2009 – Gudorrka,
Northern Territory

House 8 Renovation

  • Location: Gudorrka, Darwin NT
  • Completed: June 2009
  • Delivered: On time and on budget

In 2009 students from the University of Melbourne returned to the Gudorrka community, 22km south of Darwin. Since the Bower Studio’s previous visit three students had been awarded the University of Melbourne sponsored ‘Knowledge Transfer Award’ to work with David and Gudorrka residents to develop a strategy to improve the community housing. It had become apparent in the intervening year through ongoing consultation that residents of town camp communities have aspirations to higher standards of sustainable, appropriate and healthy housing.

Gudorrka’s ‘Government Business Manager’, Don Elphick, asked if the Bower Studio team could suggest ways to improve the housing stock in Gudorrka and to this end he allocated funds to test some ideas. Given the outcome driven focus of the Bower Studio philosophies the team set themselves to the renovation of an existing ‘chicken coop’ house – so called by residents, service providers and government officials because of these houses’ similarities to chicken coops.

Before heading north the students engaged in a ‘test build’ at the University’s Creswick Campus, reassembling the Bower structure originally built by the 2008 students and experimenting with a range of their own inexpensive additions. This was not just an opportunity to get some building experience but also to test some of the ideas they intended to take with them for their build in Darwin.

Following the test build, students engaged in a seminar series highlighting the core issues associated with Indigenous housing. With the combined knowledge from the practical build, the theoretical understanding of the context and consultation with the future resident of the house, Max and his family, the renovation of ‘House 8’ was developed.

Once in Darwin, the team, which included Max and other local community members, wasted no time. Ten days of solid work and the ‘chicken coop’ house had been cleaned out and painted, a pergola and outdoor living area added, a new bathroom and kitchen fitted and two new bedrooms added. In the yard a swing, fencing and BMX jumps had been added. Additional modifications were made to the fabric of the house including screening to the wire mesh ‘windows’ which allow only restricted views into the house while maintaining a connection between its residents and the broader community. The consultation and construction process was empowering and showed the students and the community how much could be done with few resources.

Maintenance of housing is an ongoing issue in the Indigenous Communities, particularly those located in remote parts of the country. Working with the local community members and encouraging their involvement in the build not only helps build ownership but also builds capacity to understand how certain building components work and to undertake minor repairs.

On returning to Melbourne, the students were encouraged to draw on knowledge from the previous students’ work, their own research and also their first-hand consultations within the community to inform their own design proposals for new infrastructure within the community. These designs were then presented to the Gudorrka and neighbouring Knuckeys Lagoon community leaders, as well as appropriate funding agencies, for the following year’s cohort of Bower Studio students to help construct. It is this cyclical process of ‘consult/design/build/consult/design/build….’ that makes the Bower Studio so relevant and powerful.

This project was revisited in 2015


Darwin Bower 2009 - Guddorka House 8 Renovation

Funding Agencies

  • Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  • Territory Housing
  • Melbourne University Student Knowledge Transfer Award

Project Partners

  • Darwin Regional CDEP
  • Ironbark Employment
  • Indigenous Community Volunteers
  • Aboriginal Development Foundation
  • Yilli Rreung Housing Aboriginal Corporation

Industry Partners

  • LiteSteel Technologies
  • Modwood
  • BlueScope Steel
  • Surdex
  • Bowens Timber
  • Danpalon

Community Leaders

  • Phillip Goodman
  • Lorna Goodman
  • Max Miliken and family

Studio Leaders

  • Dr David O’Brien
  • Hamish Hill

Student Mentors

  • Allison Stout
  • Charlotte Fliegner
  • Karnia Piper


  • Jessica Black
  • Justin Bolton
  • Angie Brett
  • Tom Crocker
  • Kate Fitzgerald
  • Silas Gibson
  • Stuart Harper
  • Philippa Hayden
  • Zoe Lewis
  • Cristiano Livino
  • Pheobe Quirk
  • Ruth Redden
  • Dee-Ann Simmons
  • George Stavrias
  • Georgie Stokes
  • Emerald Wise
  • Kyle Yon E