The shortage of Indigenous architects in Australia, with just 28 registered nationally as of 2017, is being addressed by a new Indigenous architecture scholarship made possible with a $1 million donation from cultural philanthropists the Droga Family Foundation.

With additional support from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the fund will help support up to 10 Indigenous students a year in their studies with UTS’s School of Architecture.

According to the last Census, Indigenous architects make up just 0.2 percent of the roughly 12,000 architects in Australia, even though Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples represent 3 per cent of the population. The number of Indigenous registered architects rose by just one person between the 2011 and 2016 censuses.

“It’s clear there’s enormous scope for improvement,” Lyndell Droga says.

“We decided to team up with UTS, working in collaboration with their Jumbunna program, to develop a comprehensive scholarship that supports students not only with tuition and accommodation expenses, but with meaningful career development opportunities such as mentoring and internships.”

“We’re all thrilled to be involved in working towards meaningful change for Indigenous participation in Australian architecture” Daniel Droga says.

The Drogas’ donation is the largest single donation to the education of Indigenous architects in Australia.

The goal is to support up to six undergraduate and up to four postgraduate architecture scholarships each year.

The awardees will also be mentored by industry, with the Government Architect NSW and the NSW Architects Registration Board supporting the initiative as industry partners,

“Indigenous architects have the potential to make a valuable contribution not only to their communities but to society as a whole, by bringing architectural skills and knowledge together with an understanding of culture, community and environment,” Professor Michael McDaniel, UTS’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement) and Director, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, says. 

UTS supports the new initiative through Jumbunna, which includes the Galuwa Experience program that introduces Indigenous high school students to a broad range of higher education opportunities, including architecture.

UTS professor of Architecture Anthony Burke says the perspective and knowledge of Indigenous architects is needed not just in Indigenous or remote communities but in urban spaces too.

“There is an enormous untapped wealth of Indigenous knowledge that has never made it across the threshold into architectural practice or environmental design,” he says.

“An Indigenous perspective on architecture is a real source of inspiration and a resource for us as a discipline.”

The program will seek to award the first two scholarships to commence in 2019.