Masters of Philosophy graduate
It was a Masters of Philosophy by design. The topic was Aboriginality and architecture: Built Projects by Merrima and Unbuilt Projects on Mer. Mer is my grandmother’s lineage in the Torres Strait. This was the first MPhil (by design) to go through the School of Architecture.
What was your experience as a postgraduate student at UQ?
Architecture is probably different to other faculties on campus because we have a studio arrangement. We have research rooms that are studio based and that is the kind of setting you need to work on something of a creative nature. It enables conversation, inspiration, and is comfortable—all those things necessary to keep your heart in the work.
What support did you find useful?
I would sometimes drop into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit to say hello to Jackie Huggins and Michael Williams. The Unit was a massive support mechanism for me. The first year and a half was incredibly difficult…I guess a number of things made it quite stressful; one was being a guinea pig for the school in what I was doing—I was getting tested from all quarters. Also, not being confident enough about my own cultural knowledge as a means to guide my architectural research; architectural design is taught in such European and empty site terms here in Australia—it is overwhelmingly ignorant of Indigenous place and space. Having someone like Michael around who you could go and talk to was incredibly important.
Has postgraduate study at UQ assisted you with your career?
Absolutely. The reason I came back and did it was that I needed an intellectual space so I could think about what I have been doing for the last ten years, what it means and what actually is there. When you are working that close to a problem especially in a commercial way as a practitioner you’re not really thinking completely freely about what the ideological issues are. You’ve got ideas and you’ve got concepts and all those sorts of things but you are still immersed in a professional arrangement. When you step out of it and you go into a purely intellectual space an opportunity to critically review ideas occurs.
Do you have advice for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students considering postgraduate study?
Probably two things, one is that it is an important and worthwhile pursuit—research is the next frontier for our people so we have to go there. It is incredibly rewarding. I think the second is probably being clear about what the purpose is—what they are trying to get out of it, and why their contribution is important to that field of study.