2012 – Bellary Springs,
Western Australia

Bellary Springs Community Centre

  • Location: Bellary Springs, WA
  • Community Partners: Gumala Aboriginal Corporation
  • Completed: June 2012
  • Delivered: On time and on budget

This project has been revisited

In 2012 the Bower Studio returned to Western Australia to work again with Gumala Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) in the homeland community of Bellary Springs. Discussion with GAC members at Bellary Springs had indicated the need for a dedicated building to host community functions. There was concern that there was no central gathering place or suitable venue for service providers to carry out health and education programs. Ongoing consultation between the University of Melbourne, GAC and the Bellary Springs community members resulted in the development of the Bellary Springs Community Centre.

Back in Melbourne, the student cohort prepared themselves in the same manner as those before them; working on a small design project which they then built at the Creswick Campus of the University. The design and construction skills developed during the test build were then augmented with research into Indigenous Housing and ‘ways of living’, informing the seminar series. With a better understanding of this dual context the team headed west to meet the community and join with them to complete the project.

Once again, because of the large scope of the project, a handful of team members from University of Melbourne and the local Community had arrived early to coordinate and complete the site works including pouring concrete footings and locating the containers once they arrived. When the full team was assembled, including University of Melbourne students, staff members from Homesglen TAFE and residents of both Bellary Spring and Wakathuni, 10 days of intense building began. In this short period the team accomplished a mammoth task; the containers were altered with doors and other openings inserted, the large unifying roof was erected and covered, feature ply panels were fixed in place for shading, the large linking deck was framed and laid, a kitchenette, tool store, accessible toilet and shower facilities were installed and various ancillary items such as a kitchen servery, a BBQ and washing up area, a children’s play area, swings and furniture were designed and built.

The team accomplished a great deal in such a short time, a testament to the well-honed process developed using the Bower Studio projects as a testing ground. The approach, based on community development and engagement, allows the team to work directly with the community and develop joint solutions that appropriately reflect their specific needs. Working on community projects such as this has given the team valuable and privileged access to discussions and relationships within communities which creates a unique position from which to conduct further design research.

On returning to Melbourne, students were asked to develop this research by producing a suite of ancillary items which could be ‘added on’ to new or existing homes to enhance the living experience of members of the community. The items were to be designed and detailed with prefabrication in mind to maximise the potential for self-building in remote communities.

The Bower Studio was awarded the 2012 Rio Tinto award for excellence in Indigenous Higher Education.

Bower Studio thanks the people of Bellary Springs for welcoming the team into their community.

Funding Agencies

  • Gumala Aboriginal Corporation
  • Lottery West
  • Rio Tinto

Project Partners

  • Holmesglen TAFE

Industry Partners

  • Modern Hiring
  • Modwood
  • Power Tool Specialists
  • LiteSteel Technologies
  • Bunnings Warehouse
  • Natural Directions

Community Leaders

  • Ken Inge
  • Stuart Inge

Community Members

  • Quinton Toby
  • Bradley Inge
  • Effie Inge
  • Jodie Toby
  • Kellerman

Studio Leaders

  • Dr David O’Brien
  • Grant Divall
  • Bruce Mahy (Gumala Aboriginal Corporation)
  • Ross Berryman
  • James Neil
  • George Stavrias
  • Murray Wells (Holmesglen TAFE)
  • Andrew Edmonds (Holmesglen TAFE)


  • Sarah Anderson
  • Dayne Beacom
  • Matt Breen
  • Tamara Burton
  • Alejandra Cordova
  • Angela Darby
  • Kathryn Finck
  • Sam Franklin
  • Ian Hince
  • Joshua Ho
  • Saumya Kaushik
  • Stephanie Kitingan
  • Jonathan Lovell
  • Andrew Nicoll
  • Nick Pappas
  • Kathy Zhao