Camps, cottages, and homes: A brief history of Indigenous housing in Queensland

August 19 – October 28, 2022


Aurukun Mission Village 1936
Duncan helping Lampus build his house. Aurukun Mission Village, 1936. Record of visit to mission stations. UQFL57 Norman F Nelson Collection. Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library

Camps, cottages and homes explores key ways that Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have made homes in the twentieth century. On missions and government settlements, the cottage was imposed as a policy instrument of control and assimilation. This model for state housing endured in Queensland well into the 1970s. In contrast, themes of resistance and self determination across the State are documented here.

Indigenous people constructed fringe camps, made additions to ill-considered government housing and rejected rigidly enforced structures developed in the early 1900s despite entrenched structural racism.

The systemic discrimination and neglect evident in planning schemes, housing designs and deficits in housing supply are ongoing problems not limited to the last century.

Research undertaken by the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre towards this exhibition represents a counter narrative, one which examines flourishing industries such as the Cherbourg prefab workshop and some of the Indigenous housing co-operatives registered in Queensland.

Up the hill, over the Coppermine Creek, in Cloncurry, my childhood home, 2022. Charcoal drawing on paper. Courtesy of Gordon Hookey and the Milani Gallery.

The personal and the political are blurred here, further evidence of the collective and intergenerational determination to construct and maintain homes in diverse settings.

These remarkable stories of resistance and adaptation to the new political and physical environments are recounted in this exhibition through collections of interviews, archives, photo essays and newly commissioned artworks by renowned artist Gordon Hookey.

Places featured include Aurukun, Acacia Ridge, Birdsville, Boulia, Cairns, Cape Bedford, Cherbourg, Cloncurry, Coopers Plains, Dajarra, Darnley Island, Dunwich, Ipswich, Inala, Mapoon, Mornington Island, Myora, Mt Isa, Normanton, Palm Island, Torres Strait Islands, Urandangi, Weipa, Woorabinda, Yarrabah and Zillmere.

Up the hill, over the Coppermine Creek, in Cloncurry, my childhood home, 2022. Charcoal drawing on paper. Courtesy of Gordon Hookey and the Milani Gallery.

A research project initiated by Professor Paul Memmott and Dr Tim O'Rourke from the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, School of Architecture at The University of Queensland with exhibition direction from Michael Aird, Director, UQ Anthropology Museum and exhibition curation by Mandana Mapar, Curator, UQ Anthropology Museum.

This exhibition has been generously supported with philanthropic contributions from key Queensland architecture practices.

Exhibition loans are included from private Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family collections throughout Queensland, the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre from Queensland State Archives, the State Library of Queensland, National Archives Australia, and The University of Queensland's Fryer Library.




Banner image:
The S1559 and S1560s house types. Yam Island, Torres Strait, 1980.
National Archives of Australia: A8598, AK21/2/80/133