‘Wangun’ means ‘Boomerang’ in Gunaikurnai language and is the moniker of this new cultural performance space. According to Gunai artist and GLaWAC’s Community Engagement Coordinator Alice Pepper, just as we watch a wangun rerun back to us once thrown, Traditional Owners hope for people who enjoy shows at Wangun to return, to continue on a journey of knowledge sharing alongside Gunaikurnai people.
The co-created architectural and landscape design of Wangun aims to showcase and celebrate Gunaikurnai culture, as well as provide a culturally specific and safe meeting place for not only GLaWAC, but over six hundred Traditional Owners and various Gippsland Lakes communities. GlaWAC aspires for the new space to provide Gunaikurnai people a place to gather, heal, yarn, celebrate, practice, teach and share cultural knowledge and stories.
A highly active and participatory approach has provided a backbone to the design process of Wangun. Initiated through a series of on Country cultural exchanges with Traditional Owners and GLaWAC staff, design ideas were co-created in consideration of specific Gunaikurnai symbolism and cultural needs.
Engaging the GLaWAC community was undertaken in partnership with Monash University M.Architecture students in 2021. The process ensured that nuanced design decisions around contemporary placemaking and cultural storytelling on Country were incorporated in a sensitive way, by leveraging GLaWAC’s deep knowledge around these relational themes.
The design of the open air performance space amalgamates several key components. The roof structure consists of two design elements, the shields of the five Gunaikurnai tribes—Brabralung, Brataualung, Brayakaulung, Krauatungalung, and Tatungalung—and the Wangun shaped stage roof. The stage also reflects the Wangun shape, mirroring the roof structure above. These representations of Gunaikurnai culture and history were shaped through collaborative decision making around the design of the forms. Large scale projection will enable the intricate shield drawings to illuminate the undersides of the PTFE fabric roofs at night. The roofs have been intentionally left blank by day to capture the shadowing of trees, birds and shifting natural light. They provide a canvas not only for the shields, but also changing installations of projection art contributed by diverse Gunaikurnai artists, across seasons and festivities.
Country / Location
Gunaikurnai / Kalimna West VIC
Makmax Architectural Fabric Structures
Deery Consulting Structural & Civil
Olnee Rammed Earth
Co-creation Engagement Team (Masters studio)
Rachel de Iongh
Photos by Rachel De Longh
Locally sourced “Gippy Gold” rammed earth along with Victorian bluestone (from Gunditjmara Country) underpin the materiality of the amphitheatre seating. GLaWAC acknowledges that taking material from Country in this way requires a symbiotic relationship, requiring us to reciprocally care for Country in the work that we do. This philosophy extends to the next life of several removed trees that will take the form of furniture and art created by Gunaikurnai artists, that will be integrated back into the extensive landscape design across the site. Along with local stringybark timber, these materials continue through to the yarning circle, sitting east, nestled between the amphitheatre, bush and water; a highly intimate setting where storytelling, yarning and other cultural activities will take place.
The rammed earth windbreak wall to the west offers another canvas for Gunaikurnai stories and will be achieved through deep community engagement led by GLaWAC alongside Traditional Owners. Making days to both design and build the wall will be facilitated in 2023.
3. Performance Area
5. Yarning Circle
7. Bush Tucker Garden
8. Upper Deck
9. Existing Building
About the Client
Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) are an influential organisation working between the intersection of cultural lore and corporate governance, to advance Gunaikurnai cultural knowledge and identity in Victoria today. GLaWAC is the Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) for Gunaikurnai people, the Traditional Owners of a significant area of Gippsland. GLaWAC revere the enduring knowledge of their Elders, ensuring contemporary interpretations of their oral histories are translated in respectful and culturally safe ways.
Upholding cultural activities, meetings, rituals and ceremonies are core to Gunaikurnai people’s health and wellbeing. GLaWAC aims to advance their cultural identity at its crossroads with post settlement governance structures. They do this by jointly managing ten cultural heritage sites with Parks Victoria, operate a natural resource management business, deliver cultural heritage management plans for various State agencies and cultural awareness training.
Slow Recovery Studio – Monash University