Using a case study of contemporary Aboriginal Architecture in north-western New South Wales, this thesis demonstrates the importance of the self-constructed housing model, and the appreciation of the advantages of the 'timber and tin' style of Aboriginal ethno-architecture in particular, to the development of strategies for designing 'appropriate' Aboriginal housing.
Currently there is very little information available about how contemporary Aboriginal people construct their built environments, let alone studies demonstrating the interface between architectural and social issues. lt is argued that a study of self-constructed housing reveals many of the behavioural patterns and spatial configurations which are preferred and valued by the Aboriginal residents and which may vary from the norms of Western societies. This case study therefore focuses on the recording and analysis of design, construction and use of space evident in examples of self-constructed Aboriginal housing on the Aboriginal Reserve in Goodooga and highlights the existence of culturally developed building technology. Referred to as 'tin camps' by the local Aboriginal population, this style of building, using 'bush' poles and corrugated iron sheeting, seems to have been common to many 'fringe settlements', 'Town Camps' and 'Reserves' across Australia in the early to mid- 1900s.
In order to establish a context for such an analysis, the study includes a comparison between the structures within the Goodooga settlement and those recorded previously in the available literature on Aboriginal fringe settlement housing in the study region. The analysis includes plan forms, construction details, morphology, size and types of rooms, types and location of architectural features such as openings, hearths etc., artefacts, growth patterns and settlement plans. This is complemented by a description of the commonly repeated activities and distinctive lifestyle characteristics as observed during the periods of fieldwork.
The study demonstrates that despite a continuity of housing style, lifestyle and settlement organisation between the contemporary Aboriginal fringe settlement communities of the twentieth century documented to date in the region, there is an enormous variety in spatial relationships, a diversity of design, and a common attribute of flexibility evident in this style of architecture which is important to the success of the structures themselves. The individual characteristics of each dwelling, instigated by their occupants, ensured an architectural appropriateness to the lifestyles of the householders. The issues of diversity and level of individuality have in fact emerged as being paramount to the understanding of the design criteria of Aboriginal housing.
Most of the literature on the subject of provision of housing to Aboriginal communities and the understanding which the author has gained through time spent in the Goodooga area, point to the process of consultation, control over the direction of decision making, ownership, and ability to alter and adjust houses as being the most crucial factors in the success of new housing design for Aboriginal clients. A combination of both improved consultation processes and a greater emphasis on a self-help approach to housing would seem to come closer to satisfying these requirements. The exact nature of support infrastructure and housing typology should not be prescriptive, but should reflect the needs, cultural, geographic and environmental criteria of each individual and community.