This thesis is a study of the Purga Cultural Landscape which is part of a much larger parcel of land, previously the Purga Aboriginal Mission from 1912 to 1948. Purga is located between Ipswich and Boonah south of Brisbane in South-East Queensland. The Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation now owns 28 hectares of the original Purga Mission property of 625 ha which was sold off for soldier settler lots after the Second World War.
The area now owned contained most of the main buildings established as part of the overall Purga Mission. The Purga community has virtually ‘bought back the farm’ and wishes to re-establish their own Aboriginal cultural capital within what is now perceived to be the Purga Cultural and Indigenous Knowledge Centre or place.
This thesis is presented as a journey of research from being introduced to the Purga people and their land, hearing about their objectives, gaining a sense of their history, researching notions of Aboriginal identity, cultural heritage, place and space and Indigenous knowledge. From this base of limited research, the author then sought to more intimately know the Purga people and their land through involvement in practical on-ground projects which were documented as case studies. These then build from the research to provide a design approach to meet their objectives.
Chapter 1 provides a background to the Purga community's objective to re-establish their cultural capital at Purga and the aims and methodology of the thesis leading towards a design approach to achieve this objective. Chapters 2 and 3 provide an introduction to the Purga community, its' existing land and associated sites, the regional landscape and pre-colonial and post-colonial history. These three introductory chapters provide the context in which the Purga community is now placed and from which it wishes to project itself.
Chapters 4 and 5 explore current issues of Aboriginal identity, cultural heritage, people, place and environment relations, and Indigenous Knowledge principles in a Purga context. From this overview study, a design approach based on established methodologies within Aboriginal Environments and Indigenous Knowledge research interpreted and tailored for Purga is expressed.
Chapter 6 illustrates through four case studies and an overview of the Purga network of places and organisations through which Purga has been operating for some time as an Aboriginal place of lndigenous Knowledge. From this study of actual operational and training activity and the research within the thesis to this phase, four definable projects emerge as expressions of a tangible design approach.
Chapter 7 proposes a design process which refers back to the Purga community's written objective and principles and builds from the study in previous chapters. An overview design approach leading from a broadly based site analysis and concept masterplan into preliminary architectural briefs for future buildings illustrates the process.
The conclusions drawn from the study reinforce the issues which need to be considered by external consultant designers when dealing with Indigenous clients whether they are traditional people closely tied to their land or ‘Historical people’ who have been detached from their lands and now relate to ‘Mission’ land. There is also a net ‘reconciliation’ and overall project benefit gained through knowledge transfer between non-Indigenous and Indigenous parties which stem from western-based research paradigms and Indigenous knowledge paradigms. The conclusion also suggests that participating education institutions should be more proactive to support the Purga training and research programs. It is suggested that the Purga leaders also need to build from the successful programs which have made Purga what it now is rather than try to meet all of their own community's and the broader community's expectations within their limited resources.
A final conclusion is that the experience the author gained at Purga has intrinsically changed his own approach to communication with architectural clients and design on land.