Monash Innovation Fellowship
Walking on Country with GLaWAC Traditional Owner rangers engaged in post-bushfire plant identification
In 2020-21, Nikhila was the Monash Innovation Fellow within the Department of Architecture. Her research and teaching through this role, focused on rethinking community-led recovery of built environments in the regional Victorian context, following the 2019-20 bushfires in Gunaikurnai-Bidawel Country / East Gippsland.
The role investigated how architectural practice can better assist such trauma informed contexts, by adapting and deconstructing traditional design processes. This was especially in consideration of vast evidence from previous bushfires exposing that reconstruction is often inequitable and has often diminished rather than ameliorated people’s psychosocial and economic recovery. The added context was the protracted disaster of the Covid-19 pandemic compounding existing hardship experienced by many people during bushfire recovery, by creating extended social isolation.
Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Gunaikurnai and Bidwell Country / Melbourne and East Gippsland
Surviving wall at Clifton Creek Primary, destroyed during the 2019-20 bushfires
ABC Gippsland Radio Interview: Nikhila Madabhushi & Robert Lees
Melbourne Design Week: Slipway Salon Presentation
Alongside individual field studies, the work also involved human ethics approved action based research that was integrated into paired Masters studio and studies syllabi. This involved a series of seminars and interviews with a wide cross section of disaster survivors, recovery experts, Traditional Owners and academics, including people from Bushfire Recovery Victoria, Australian Red Cross, Gender and Disaster Pod and Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation. These perspectives along with further research design shaped subsequent fieldwork in Mallacoota, Genoa and the Gippsland Lakes region. A key feature of this fieldwork was several co-creation workshops with local people and grassroots organisations who contributed their knowledge towards how the built environment might better serve sustainable recovery pathways.
Outputs of the fellowship were diverse including consecutive research-led Masters studios, co-created design briefs to aid local community action, public exhibitions and discourse as various speaking engagements and written pieces.
Right image: Spring Creek at Bukkan-Munji (Buchan Reserve)