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The Kimberwalli Centre for Excellence
Specifications
  • Client
    NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs
  • Location
    1 Mimika Avenue, Whalan
  • Start Date
    February 1, 2018
  • Services
    Architecture
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Architecture

The Kimberwalli Centre for Excellence

A place of empowerment for Aboriginal youth in Western Sydney.

In 2017 a group of eight young Aboriginal people with vision and passion came together with BVN architect Kevin O’Brien to shape the foundations of a new centre of excellence. A $20million investment from the State Government meant such a place was possible, to support those between high school and higher education.

A new double height verandah creates a sense of arrival and place.

A place for ideas

The group envisioned a place deeply connected to their culture and Country. Somewhere for short courses, mentoring, upskilling and creativity. For cultural events and gatherings. Somewhere beautiful, safe and inspiring, where big ideas and small steps forward, would be possible.

Two years later, Kimberwalli became a reality. An adaptation of the former Whalan High School, it emerged afresh with active and vibrant spaces flooded with natural light and flexible open areas, ready to be filled with energy, ideas and possibilities.

The site is the former Whalan Public High School at Whalan, near Mt Druitt in Western Sydney.

A place for learning

The new centre has a range of spaces for different kinds of learning, collaboration and celebration. Seminar rooms, meeting spaces and digital labs make up the interiors. Here students have access to top class educators and programs. A landmark partnership with Microsoft and LinkedIn enables state-of-the-art technology and digital literacy training

By creating several usable spaces around the precinct, people are reconnected with the landscape.

A place connected to Country

A double height screened veranda provides a generous and protected open air space. Outside are sports fields, carefully considered gardens and natural green spaces, as well as a leisure area complete with BBQs. A spectacular and specially-designed fire pit is a welcoming place for storytelling and special celebrations.

The specific arrangement of internal and external spaces was crucial in connecting students to each other and Darug Country. Likewise, the selection of colours, materials and finishes, which drew on the endemic characteristics of the land, was carefully selected. These considerations are integral to BVN’s Designing with Country methodology – an approach that connects First Nations thinking and contemporary architecture.

A place to build confidence

Western Sydney is home to the largest Aboriginal community in NSW of whom 60% are under the age of 24. For these young people transitioning between high school and the start of their adult life Kimberwalli is an important place. It’s grounded in a strong connection to Aboriginal culture and identity. And it offers a place to build confidence, gain new skills and prepare for what’s ahead. The centre has quickly established itself as a nationally recognised and innovative facility supporting young Aboriginal people as they take their first steps towards their career.

The specially-designed fire pit is a cultural, gathering and sharing space that connects the buildings to the Country.
A place for and with the community

Kimberwalli was created and developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, consultants, businesses, supply chains and contractors. It was and remains led by the community consisting of the Darug people, Mt Druitt, Whalan and Western Sydney communities. As the project was led by community it observed community engagement and cultural expectations in all aspects of the project.

North-west main entry
Blurring the line between indoors and outdoors

IMPACT

13,426

are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people (1.4%), making Western Sydney home to the largest Aboriginal community in NSW

17.4%

of Population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in Western Sydney is between 20 and 29 of age

53.9%

of the Aboriginal population of Western Sydney is younger than the population as a whole and are under the age of 24.

Kimberwalli means “many stars”. A fitting name for a place designed to help young Aboriginal people do extraordinary things.

The Process

View as Slideshow

BVN walked alongside young Aboriginal people from Western Sydney to co-design a space for young Aboriginal people to connect, share and grow in a culturally safe way.

As a building for the indigenous community, a working group of dedicated young Aboriginal people was established before BVN’s engagement to ensure their meaningful contribution from the very start. Extensive engagement was undertaken, with monthly meetings held throughout the project, from brief confirmation through design, documentation, and construction, ensuring an open, transparent, and informed flow of information and influence.
Additional milestone community events allowed a broader reach into the wider community, which supplemented our engagement, keeping everyone informed of issues and progress.

The Process (Gallery)

BVN walked alongside young Aboriginal people from Western Sydney to co-design a space for young Aboriginal people to connect, share and grow in a culturally safe way.

As a building for the indigenous community, a working group of dedicated young Aboriginal people was established before BVN’s engagement to ensure their meaningful contribution from the very start. Extensive engagement was undertaken, with monthly meetings held throughout the project, from brief confirmation through design, documentation, and construction, ensuring an open, transparent, and informed flow of information and influence.
Additional milestone community events allowed a broader reach into the wider community, which supplemented our engagement, keeping everyone informed of issues and progress.

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Credits

BVN
Kevin O'Brien, Juan Salazar Jaramillo, Brian Donovan, Geoff Hehir, Kevin Murphy, Marilena Hewitt, Jorge Aguirre, Jennifer Carey, David Kelly, Peta Hawkins, Glen Millar, Catherine Skinner, Zsolt Kiss, Juan Salazar Jaramillo, Nathan Harry, Matthew Wash, Rob Vider, Brian Wong, Jared Bird, Nikolas Strugar, Brendan Doherty, Schneider i Eliassaint, Jad Sylla, Kevin O'Brien, Elle Trevorrow, Robert Myszkowski
Consultants

Aurecon Australasia Pty Ltd, C & A Surveyors NSW Pty Ltd, Environmental Investigation Services (EIS), Group DLA Pty Ltd, Urbis Pty Ltd, WT Partnership (Sydney)

Consultants

Aurecon Australasia Pty Ltd, C & A Surveyors NSW Pty Ltd, Environmental Investigation Services (EIS), Group DLA Pty Ltd, Urbis Pty Ltd, WT Partnership (Sydney)

Photography

Barton Taylor

Awards

Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) NSW Chapter Prizes - Reconciliation Prize (2021)

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