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During September 2010 I travelled to Hope Vale, Queensland, to build an Ablutions Block, consisting of two bathrooms, two toilets, and a laundry. The Ablutions Block is a services building and is intended to be part of a larger project that includes a Community Development and Training Centre on the property owned by Neville and Thea Bowen.

The Ablutions Block is Phase 1 of this project. Phase 2 of the project will be to build the Development and Training Centre as designed by Eco House Australia.

On this trip I was accompanied by David Griffin, a builder who worked with me on the construction, and Ojars Greste, a photographer and film maker who documented the building project. Click here to view slideshow.

On my previous trip to Hope Vale, the “Cordroy Cape York Community Building and Training Company Pty Ltd” was set up. This provides the framework for administering the construction of the Ablutions Block and also for subsequent construction. Click here to view the Hope Vale project page.

The current construction in Hope Vale is being funded jointly by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum and Harmers Workplace Lawyers. These two organizations have provided funding for the construction of the “Ablutions block” that was built on this trip to Hope Vale. All the timber for the Ablutions Block (which is all timber construction) was cut and supplied by Neville Bowen using his “Lucas Mill” (see photos). Construction work was mainly done by myself and builder David Griffin, assisted by Neville Bowen and four part time workers from the Hope Vale community organized by Neville.

On completion of this Ablutions Block, it is hoped to obtain additional funding to complete the Community Development and Training Centre by building two adjoining Gunyas: a community centre, and a workshop. The construction of these buildings would serve not only as a model for eco house Australia’s Gunya type of building, but also serve as a model of the process of building. Importantly, it would also provide a living space to bring black and white together in practical ways and enhance our understanding of indigenous spiritual and cultural traditions and respect for each other.

Cape York Trip

ross-woodcockMy trip to Hopevale, Cape York was assisted by Tjerk Dusseldorp of The Dusseldorp Skills Forum. Scroll down to view all the pictures.

I was accompanied by Richard Cutler as co-driver and note taker, visited Cairns and Hopevale and stayed with Aboriginal elders Neville and Thea Bowen on their property called “Cordroy”.

Gunya ShelterI designed the original Gunya Shelter after an in-depth discussion with Neville about Aboriginal sensibilities that needed to be included in a shelter for it to be appropriate to their culture and the living experience of their relationship within the natural environment.

Our meeting this time was to find a way to work together in developing the building of houses using the Gunya Shelter as the basis to incorporate all Neville’s skills and knowledge as a timber cutter, miller and builder with the possibility of creating a workshop for training in the making of elements in the building such as wooden frames for louvres and doors, timber decking and furniture and to support a timber gallery and local indigenous craft.

To increase employment and skills base of the community and train young men and women into building teams to construct their own housing and development.

cape-york-meetingPresent at the meeting was Sean Gillen (Business Development Manager for Westpac) and the Cooktown Balkanu Business Hub.

Sean was very enthusiastic about our project and looks forward to working with us as a group.

The others at the round table meeting as in the photo were Neville and Thea, Russel, Richard, Sean, Phillip, Chavanne, Alfred and myself.

Our task at present is to cost the setting up of the project to include a toilet and shower block for men and women, a shelter and dormitory with kitchen to accommodqte visitors, those who come and train in the workshop, groups that Neville and Thea have with their youth counselling and shelter for a training workshop.

site-work-commencesThe project will be called “The Cordroy Community Development and Training Centre”.

CORDROY means the laying down of parallel sticks and saplings across a small stream to make a safe crossing.

We all left the meeting with the hope that these small steps we make together will become a reality.

NOTE: Anyone interested in contributing to our project please contact us.

Cheers to all that follow our endeavours.


I am heading for Cape York to spend some time with the Aboriginal Elders and explore local indigenous housing needs. Stay tuned as the full story unfolds..

Today we launched our expanded eco house website!