This project takes place on Gurindji Country, a place of great historical significance. The Gurindji mob were the actors of the historic Wave Hill Walk Off – a landmark event that initiated the Australian Aboriginal land rights movement.

The River Land thesis has been developed in partnership with the Karungkarni Art and Culture Centre and the Bower Studio at the University of Melbourne. The project responds to a grant obtained by the art centre to refurbish and improve the environmental conditions of the existing centre in Kalkarindji.

The focus of the thesis is to explore how culturally sensitive, responsive, and appropriate artist workshops can be developed along with and for local artists in remote aboriginal communities — specifically, artist workshops designed with representatives from the Karungkarni Art and Culture Centre in Kalkarindji, NT.

The Bower Studio has worked with community representatives from Kalkarindji over the last seven years and delivered projects such as the award-winning Wave Hill Walk Off Pavilion.

I had the opportunity to work with the community as a student during the 2021 Bower studio. This trip resulted in an invitation from the Karungkarni Art and Culture Centre to explore options to extend, refurbish and improve the environmental conditions of the existing centre.

Kalkarindji is a place of complex heritage layering as country holds significant value through both Puwarraja and Yijarni stories - Dreamtime and true stories. For the ones that know, these stories follow you through the landscape.

The River Land thesis builds on my personal experiences on country - a small fraction of the vast sea of stories from this land. It holds the memory of the dry riverbed passing through Malagulani and the dramatic cliffs of Nieve Gorge. It’s memory of the rocky beach of 7 miles and the shaded spots along the Victoria River. It’s remembering the everyday buzz of the town square whilst moving along the Walk-Off Trail - passing spinifex and bush onions. It is the memory of Wave Hill Station and the orderly remnants left in the landscape. All of this you can see from Mount Possum; from this view, you can see the river as an entity that connects and give life to the landscape – as an interconnected living entity embedded within country.

The project aims to become a tribute to connection, culture, and spirituality - a tribute to country. Karungkarni Art and Culture Centre will continue as a place to learn, feel, and celebrate the landscape - a place where stories can be experienced, but above all, expressed.

Gina Dahl is a Master of Architecture graduate from the University of Melbourne with a BA (hons) Architecture degree from Oxford Brookes University. She has worked for practices based in London, Oslo and Melbourne and wish to unpack the importance of implementing holistic design methodologies that build on cultural, economic, and environmental sustainability.