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Hope Vale

ablutions_block_almost_finishedThis project involves building a Community Development and Training Centre on a property owned by Neville and Thea Bowen in Hope Vale, Queensland. To kick off the project we built an Ablutions Block, consisting of two bathrooms, two toilets, and a laundry. 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 Gunya Shelters. Click here to view a slide show of the project.

The Phase 1 construction in Hope Vale was funded jointly by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum and Harmers Workplace Lawyers. All the timber for the Ablutions Block (which is all timber construction) was cut and supplied by Neville Bowen using his “Lucas Mill” (seecutting_timber_on_ Lucas_mill photo). Construction work was mainly done by Ross Woodcock and builder David Griffin, assisted by Neville Bowen and four part time workers from the Hope Vale community organized by Neville.

The insights gained from the working relationship with Neville Bowen have enhanced the intuitive approach taken in developing the Gunya design, which evolved around the sensibilities that were conveyed by Neville in our first encounter. This project has reinforced the realization that the indigenous approach to all aspects of life is based on family and community.

Recognizing the need for inclusion of indigenous principles, traditions and opinions has been a most gratifying experience in this project. It is important to realise that this project is a real learning curve for all involved, from benefactor to worker. It offers a new direction, evolving on the basis of building new relationships of responsibility and commitment of trust on an equal footing.

A key aspect is that spatial relationships are very important in adhering to their very strict principles and traditions in respect to interpersonal relationships. These interrelationships are paramount in the way that physical space is organized. The design of a living space has to be large and open enough, and have the flexibility to accommodate such traditions as avoidance behaviours. One aspect, for example, is that a man cannot talk or have eye contact with his mother-in-law, and they must keep considerable physical distance between themselves.

eco house Gunya buildingsOn 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 the 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.

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