West Sydney Uni Returns to Earth with Aussie-Made Mass Timber Indigenous Centre

The new Indigenous Centre of Excellence will have a spine made from Australian Grown, and certified, Native Hardwoods.

Thu 07 Mar 24


Western Sydney University has revealed plans for a new $78.5m Indigenous Centre of Excellence, featuring a mass timber superstructure built entirely from “Aussie-grown” hardwoods.

The new centre, which will have a 6-star World’s Best Practice Green Star rating, is “made from Indigenous and Country-focused materials and suppliers” and has a facade “constructed from clay sourced from earth.”

Yesterday, NSW Premier Chris Minns joined members of the Western Sydney University Elders Advisory Committee, including Chancellor Professor Jennifer Westacott AO, Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Barney Glover AO, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership Professor Michelle Trudgett, at a special ceremony unveiling the design.

ICOE Design reveal Event Parramatta Campus
Western Sydney University’s Indigenous Centre of Excellence design was unveiled by the Hon. Donna Davis MP; Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Chris Minns MP; Chancellor, Professor Jennifer Westacott AO; Professor Michelle Trudgett, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership; and Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover AO. (Photo credit: Sally Tsoutas from the University of Western Sydney, supplied as part of a media release).

The purpose-built net-zero campus building, supported by a grant from the NSW Government, “will support the sharing and preservation of Indigenous cultures while informal learning spaces will provide opportunities for engagement and collaboration.”

According to Professor Barney Glover, the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University, “It represents a significant opportunity for us to intensify our engagement with communities and will connect people and places to celebrate tens of thousands of years of Indigenous knowledge and history.”

“The centre represents the university’s commitment to advancing indigenous education, leadership and reconciliation.” Footage courtesy of @WesternSydneyU.

Construction on the new building will commence next year before opening in time for the second semester of 2026 – with the building a key part of the University’s Indigenous Futures Decadal Strategy 2023-2032.

Designed by Sarah Lynn Rees of Jackson Clements Burrows Architects, Peter Stutchbury Architecture, and Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture, in collaboration with Uncle Dean Kelly, Hill Thalis Architecture, and Flux Consult, the new centre will be an anchor point of the Parramatta South campus, which is located on Darug land.

The centre put’s education into an aboriginal perspective, according to Uncle Greg Simms – footage courtesy of @WesternSydneyU.

In a statement provided to Wood Central by the university, “the design is guided by Country and brings to life a vision for a community-centric, transformational building that integrates Indigenous knowledge, featuring a new state-of-the-art theatre and cinema, exhibition galleries, teaching and learning facilities and Indigenous discovery space.”

According to Chancellor Westacott, the new centre will be the benchmark for Indigenous leadership and education, “forming an important part of Western Sydney University’s Indigenous Strategy 2020-2025, which aims to increase Indigenous participation in higher education and foster emerging Indigenous leaders for decades to come.”

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Design impression of the Indigenous Centre of Excellence. (Photo Credit: Western Sydney University.)

For Ms Rees, the architect behind the design, the new centre “engages with the layered physical and experiential histories of the site to create a proposal that is born from the spatial language of Country and healed through the return of waterway, ecology, and home for non-human kin.”

Ms Rees was part of a two-stage design competition and a design team that secured the commission over Ngurrabirang Dharug, ngalaiya collective and BVN.

It is “inspired by the form and safety of the mangroves and veiled by a woven like façade, the design acts as a canvas within which human and non-human kin can re-connect,” Ms Rees said, before adding that the centre “will facilitate the practice of caring for Country and the transfer of cultural and academic knowledge, amplifying individual and collective cultural strength for the benefit of all.”

“It means everything to the indigenous community; it provides a place for safety, belonging and connectedness.” Footage courtesy of @WesternSydneyU.

Professor Michelle Trudgett, WSU’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Indigenous Leadership, says the new building will be “deeply connected with Country and Indigenous knowledge. The Indigenous Centre of Excellence will be a transformational space where communities can connect with the university while learning from and celebrating our incredible culture.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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