Connecting people and Country: Western Sydney University announces winning team of its Indigenous Centre of Excellence design competition

ICOE Design Competition WinnersWinning Design Team pictured from left to right: Thomas Sharp (JCB), Jane Irwin (JILA), Ché Wall (FLUX), Sarah Lynn Rees (JCB), Daniel Harmon (JILA), Fernanda Cabral (PSA), Tim Jackson (JCB). Not Pictured: Peter Stutchbury (PSA), Belinda Koopman (PSA)

Following a nation-wide design competition, Western Sydney University is proud to announce the winning team to design its new Indigenous Centre of Excellence.

Chancellor Professor Jennifer Westacott AO, Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Barney Glover AO, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership Professor Michelle Trudgett announced the winning design team today.

The winning team is Sarah Lynn Rees + Jackson Clements Burrows Architects + Peter Stutchbury Architecture + Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture. The team also includes, Uncle Dean Kelly, Hills Thalis and Flux consultants. The winning design was chosen from submissions prepared by a shortlist of four teams.

The design competition selection panel were impressed with the winning team’s design concept, which encapsulates the visionary and community-centred nature of the transformational new building and confirms its position as an Indigenous-led project embedded in Country and in Indigenous knowledge.

To be located at the University’s Parramatta South campus, on Darug land, the Indigenous Centre of Excellence will consolidate Western Sydney as a region at the forefront of Indigenous education, employment and research.

The state-of-the-art facility will be accessible to people of all ages, abilities and interests, where they will learn more about the rich Indigenous culture and heritage of the Western Sydney region, explore its arts and cultural collections, and attend performances, talks and screenings. Purpose-built facilities will support the sharing and preservation of Indigenous Australian culture while informal learning spaces will provide opportunities for engagement and collaboration.

It will also be a place for truth telling, teaching and learning, interdisciplinary research, and the exploration of creativity and innovation.

The Indigenous Centre of Excellence is a key part of the University’s Indigenous Strategy 2020-2025 and will be a benchmark for Indigenous leadership and education.

ICOE Design Competition Selection CommitteeDesign Competition Selection Committee pictured from left to right: John Choi (CHROFI), Carol Go Sam (Dyirbal gumbilbara bama) (University of Queensland), Dillon Kombumerri (Quandamooka / Yugambeh) (Government Architect NSW), Sebastian Goldspink (Darug) (Curator and Writer), Professor Michelle Trudgett (Wiradjuri) (Western Sydney University), Dolla Merrillees (Western Sydney University), Professor Liz Cameron (Darug) (University of Newcastle), Kieran Wong (The Fulcrum Agency).

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership, Professor Michelle Trudgett, said: “Western Sydney is home to one of the largest Indigenous populations in the country, so it is only fitting that we create a place of such community and cultural significance where the community can learn more about the rich Indigenous culture and heritage of our region.”

“I would like to sincerely congratulate Sarah Lynn Rees and team on their successful submission. Their design is absolutely beautiful as it centres Country in such a thoughtful, respectful and innovative manner. This iconic landmark building will provide a place for Indigenous culture and people to thrive for many generations into the future. I’m extremely excited and looking forward to working with this stellar team to create something that will be celebrated for many years to come.”

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover AO, said: “This iconic building will be an important gathering place to connect people and place and celebrate tens of thousands of years of Indigenous knowledges and histories. The Indigenous Centre of Excellence is testament to the University’s commitment to advancing Indigenous education, leadership, and engagement. Our longstanding relationship with our Indigenous communities is foundational to who we are as an institution.”

Chancellor, Professor Jennifer Westacott AO, said: "This important initiative is a generational opportunity for us to intensify our engagement with the community at such a critical time for Indigenous Australians. Working together with our Indigenous communities we aim to drive positive change – increasing Indigenous participation in higher education and striving towards a sustainable future that fosters and supports emerging Indigenous leaders for decades to come.”

Chair of the Design Competition Selection Committee, Dillon Kombumerri, said: “The winning scheme is an outstanding, Country centred design that promotes First Peoples’ leadership, knowledge sharing, creative skills and living cultural practices. As well as being an iconic destination that the Western Sydney University and the communities it serves can be proud of, the facility will be a welcoming place for everyone who visits, ensuring its enduring legacy”.

Winning team spokesperson, Sarah Lynn Rees, Senior Associate, Jackson Clements Burrows, said: “We are so genuinely thrilled to have been selected as the design team for the Western Sydney University Indigenous Centre of Excellence. It is not very often that you have the opportunity to respond to a brief that is seeking to holistically embed and care for Country, culture and community. We could not be more excited for the next stages, walking side by side with Western Sydney University, Darug Ngurra and the Community to realise a place that shows the world how powerful mob can be when we are allowed to be.”

ICOE Indigenous Advisory GroupIndigenous Advisory Group pictured from left to right: Kayden Edwards (Darug) (Western Sydney University), Dr. Michelle Locke (Darug) (Western Sydney University), Dr Daniele Hromek (Budawang/Yuin) (Djinjama), Fiona Towney (Wiradjuri) (Western Sydney University), Brendan Thomas (Darug) (Ngalawa Nura), Mathew Cornwell (Wiradjuri) (Ngurra Advisory).

The winning design for the building, will be shared with the community in conjunction with the NSW Government, at a special launch event in early 2024.

For more information about Western Sydney University’s Indigenous Centre of Excellence, please visit the Centre's website.


15 December 2023

Media Unit.

Photo Credit: Sally Tsoutas