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    Indigenous health centre by Hames Sharley making a difference

    Lisa Rapley

    The Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Primary Health Care designed by Hames Sharley has recently been completed.

    As the brain child of Associate Professor Noel Haman and his team, it plays an important role in providing mainstream health services to Indigenous Australians and a place for the community and healing.

    Originally established as the Inala Indigenous Health Service in 1995, Dr Hayman and his team provide a community based general practice service focused on improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, while increasing the participation rate accessing mainstream health services.

    The lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across Queensland have been changed by Dr Hayman and his team in the past two decades.

    Working closely with this team, Hames Sharley designed a facility which complements its use as a place for the community and of healing.

    The building design is inspired by an uplifting sense of being, expressed in an ambitious and unapologetic Queensland style.

    Project director James Edward Curnow says the project was embraced as a healthcare centre, which would have a greater role in bringing the community together. It was important to Dr Hayman and his team that the centre created didn’t feel institutional.

    “The building is significant in its suburban context, yet the use of materials and somewhat informal composition, seek to imbue a sense of humility.  It was never envisioned as a monumental building, although we certainly wanted it to have a strong presence in the community,” Curnow says.

    One of the key objectives with the project was to take advantage of the surrounding natural environment as the Indigenous community has a unique and strong connection with it. This was achieved by maximizing the number of spaces which had a physical or visual connection to the outdoors.

    Design elements were borrowed from the structures of Queensland’s early colonial years, with the building seeking to celebrate elements of the state’s past while embracing modern and adventurous forms.

    Artwork by local Aboriginal artist Anthony Walker is featured in the main entry and sheltered by angular steeply pitched roof forms with generous overhangs. Additionally, a light-filled stairwell with artwork by renowned Torres Strait Islander artist Billy Missi is featured.

    One of the most important design features is reflected with the three main sections – the appropriate segregation between patient and staff circulation.

    Patients wait at the eastern end of the building, whether inside or in the courtyard. They are then brought through the centrally located clinical spaces with staff able to access each floor via the western circulation corridor.

    Acute treatment spaces are located in the middle of the floor plate, along with utility spaces. While consult spaces are located on the northern and southern walls to take advantage of daylight, with occupants able to switch between air-conditioning and natural ventilation.

    Now fully operational, the Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care by Hames Sharley is making significant contributions to national Indigenous health reform through development of best practice models of care.

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