Indigenous Centre of Excellence

Indigenous Centre of Excellence
Design Competition

Acknowledgement of Country

With respect for Aboriginal cultural protocol and out of recognition that its campuses occupy their traditional lands, Western Sydney University acknowledges the Darug, Eora, Dharawal (also referred to as Tharawal) and Wiradjuri peoples and thanks them for their support of its work in their lands (Greater Western Sydney and beyond).

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The Indigenous Centre of Excellence at Western Sydney University Design Competition

Seize the opportunity to propel Indigenous education, leadership, and reconciliation forward by joining us in shaping the future of the Indigenous Centre of Excellence. The new landmark will be situated on Darug land at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta South Campus, serving as a vital community space that honours the enduring connection between Indigenous peoples, the University, and the region.

We invite you to be part of this groundbreaking project that will set a new standard for Indigenous leadership and education. The Indigenous Centre of Excellence will be a beacon of research, inquiry, and cultural celebration, showcasing thousands of years of Indigenous knowledge and history within a cutting-edge facility. Together, we will create an iconic and transformative space that reflects the aspirations and values of Indigenous communities, nurturing education, empowering leadership, and fostering reconciliation at Western Sydney University’s Indigenous Centre of Excellence.


Victoria Road Rydalemere NSW 2116

Indigenous-led design: Empowering minds. Nurturing leaders.

Embark on a remarkable journey to envision an Indigenous Centre of Excellence that places education and Indigenous leadership at its core. This competition invites you to create a transformative space where the principles of Indigenous ways of thinking, being, and doing are celebrated and shared with all.

Education is a powerful tool that shapes minds, opens doors, and builds bridges of understanding. In this design competition, we recognise the importance of integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, perspectives, and ways of learning into the fabric of the university experience. Create a Centre of Excellence that becomes a vibrant hub for Indigenous community and education, nurturing the next generation of Indigenous leaders.

Submissions at both Stage One and Stage Two should embody a deep respect for Indigenous ways of thinking, knowing, and being, embracing diverse Indigenous cultures, languages, and practices. Consider how the architecture and layout of the Centre can facilitate a holistic and immersive educational experience, honouring both traditional and contemporary approaches to learning. Engage with Indigenous elders and knowledge holders, who will guide and inspire students.

Indigenous leadership lies at the heart of this competition. Empower Indigenous students, staff, and community to take the reins of their own narratives and actively shape the future. The Centre of Excellence should serve as a platform for Indigenous leadership development, fostering confidence, self-determination, and a sense of cultural pride.

Collaboration is key. Meaningfully partner with Indigenous communities and organisations to ensure that the Centre reflects their aspirations and needs. By actively involving Indigenous voices in the design process, you will create a space that resonates with authenticity, cultural sensitivity, and inclusivity.

Consider how the Centre can act as a bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, fostering understanding and reconciliation. Emphasise the importance of cultural exchange, mutual respect, and the breaking down of barriers through shared learning experiences.

The Centre should meaningfully celebrate Indigenous art, storytelling and cultural expression. Create spaces that promote cultural preservation, exhibitions, and performances, providing a platform for Indigenous artists to showcase their talents and share their stories with the wider community.

The Indigenous Centre of Excellence exemplifies a harmonious connection between the built environment and the natural world. It prioritises sustainability, respect for the land, and cultural engagement through Indigenous ecological knowledge and custodianship.

We are creating a space that fosters education, Indigenous leadership, and cultural exchange. Together, we can weave the threads of Indigenous knowledge and contemporary knowledge, creating a space that ignites possibilities, transforms lives, and paves the way for a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

The Competition

The Competition is a two-stage process comprising an Expression of Interest (Stage One) and design response stage (Stage Two). The Competition seeks a collaborative design team  to work with the University to deliver the design services to realise the Indigenous Centre of Excellence.

Introducing the Finalist Design Teams

The team includes: hardyhardy + Jason Wing + Mantirri Design + ARM Architecture + TCL + Cundall.

Ngurrabirang Dharug means “belonging to Dharug Country.” This reflects our approach and hopes for this exciting project. We are led by: Bernadette (B) Hardy, a Dharug/Gamilaraay spatial designer and co-leader of design partnership hardyhardy; Jason Wing, a Biripi man with Cantonese and colonial heritage who brings multidisciplinary artistry; and Mantirri Design, led by Paul Herzich (Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri), an Aboriginal-owned landscape architecture and public art practice. In allyship, ARM Architecture, TCL, and Cundall are established non-Indigenous practices known for innovative design and real-world sustainable contributions. We are proud to yanama bangawarra budyari gumada (Dharug for “walk and create together with good spirit”).

The team includes: Greenaway Architects x Greenshoot Consulting, COLA Studio, NH Architecture, Oculus, Jabin and Atelier Ten.

The ngalaiya* collective brings together leading practices: Greenaway Architects x Greenshoot Consulting, COLA Studio, NH Architecture, Oculus, Jabin and Atelier Ten. Our partnership model is based on Indigenous design leadership, shared values, mutual respect and cultural alignment. Our expertise encompasses architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, urban design, engineering and sustainability, unpinned by culturally responsive engagement. Specifically conceived to meet the challenge of realising a globally-leading purpose built ‘Indigenous Centre of Excellence’ for Western Sydney University, we seize this moment in coming on this journey, with conviction, courage and curiosity.

* ngalaiya – ally (D’harawal language)

The team includes: BVN, Blaklash, ASPECT Studios, Introba and Land Eco.

BVN as Lead Architect have proposed a highly creative and experienced respondent team to help start our journey with the Indigenous Centre of Excellence at Western Sydney University. Involving Indigenous Design Lead Blaklash focusing on people and culture, landscape architects and urban designers ASPECT Studios, sustainability consultants Introba and ecology experts Land Eco. All have extensive experience directly related to developing this important cultural facility that will be invaluable during the initial vision creation stage of the competition. We look forward to working with the Community and all Stakeholders.

The team includes: Sarah Lynn Rees, Jackson Clements Burrows, Peter Stutchbury, Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture, Uncle Dean Kelly, Hills Thalis and Flux consultants.

Our team brings together Indigenous Design Leader Sarah Lynn Rees (Palawa), Jackson Clements Burrows Architects, Peter Stutchbury Architecture, Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture, with Uncle Dean Kelly (Yuin/Wailwan), Philip Thalis (Hill Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects) and Che Wall. We’re united by a deep respect for Country and look forward to designing a building that will act as a place for learning, teaching, research, innovation and truth telling. A place that will connect Indigenous peoples and cultures and nurture an emerging generation of First Nations leaders. A place that nurtures connection – between people and cultures, generations and ontologies, indoor and outdoor, learning and collaboration, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Design Competition Selection Committee

The Design Competition Selection Committee includes esteemed individuals with deep expertise in the fields of design, architecture, Indigenous knowledge, and community engagement. Meet the members of our esteemed selection committee:

Professor Liz Cameron (Darug)
Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Built Environment (Indigenous Health), University of Newcastle

John Choi
Director, CHROFI

Carroll Go-Sam (Dyirbal gumbilbara bama)
Senior Lecturer, Indigenous Engagement, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Queensland

Sebastian Goldspink (Darug)
Curator and writer

Dillon Kombumerri (Quandamooka/Yugambeh)
Principal Architect, Government Architect NSW (Chair)

Dolla Merrillees
Director, Western Sydney Creative

Professor Michelle Trudgett (Wiradjuri)
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Leadership, Western Sydney University

Kieran Wong
Co-founder and Partner, The Fulcrum Agency


The competition is structured as a national design competition. Provided that eligibility is met by a competitor, other participants - including international design practices - may participate within a competitor team.

Competitors that are shortlisted to participate in stage two will receive an honorarium.

The competition is currently under review for endorsement. It is intended that this review will be completed prior to the launch of the EOI.

Non-architects can participate within a competitor team, provided the competitor has a practising architect on its team who meets the eligibility criteria.

At a minimum, to be eligible to lodge a Stage One Submission in the competition, a prospective competitor must at lodgement demonstrate that their team contains an Architect who:

  • is a practising Architect, architectural company or architectural partnership within Australia;
  • is eligible to register as an architect in New South Wales, Australia pursuant to the Architects Act 2003 (NSW); and
  • has a registered Australian Business Number (ABN) of no less than ten years and is registered for the Goods and Services Tax with the Australian Taxation Office. 

There may be other eligibility criteria listed in the competition documents. It is the competitor’s responsibility to ensure that they are eligible to enter the competition.

The stage one brief will be issued to all registrants from the commencement of stage one.

Parking is a crucial aspect of the project, and we understand the concerns regarding its impact. The project team is actively evaluating various options to accommodate parking.