Minjerribah Ganaba


Minjerribah Ganaba means ‘a place to hear, think and understand’. The intent in retrofitting the old Dunwich High School into a space for QYAC (Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation) was to represent and empower all Quandamooka people.  The Minjerribah Ganaba project enhances QYAC’s objective to “improve the accessibility of education & training services to [our] community and to build understanding, respect for and recognition of Quandamooka custodianship, language and culture”.

The project involved stakeholder engagement with employees and elders to understand their needs and aspirations. A key aspect was a strong desire to return many of the archaeological artefacts and sacred objects to the island. A secure cultural heritage ‘keeping place’ with a laboratory became central to the project. Other functions included administrative and office spaces, meeting spaces, places for workshops and seminars, a children’s and elder’s space and a new commercial kitchen. The old high school basketball court was converted into a gathering place for ceremonies and events.

The material palette reflects the identity of the three indigenous tribal owners who collectively identify as ‘people of the land and sea.’ There are many stories incorporated into the spaces and signage. The coastline adjacent the site is where ancestors would fish andaccah (mullet) in collaboration with the baunguan (dolphin) and mirrigimpa (sea eagle). This story has been evoked in the conversion of the old school basketball court into a ceremonial space where plywood ‘dolphin blades’ represent the island’s twelve indigenous families.

Forms and patterns in paths and trellises reference gabul (carpet snake), an important clan totem known as the brother to the dolphin. A fire pit surrounded by native fire making plants empowers the community to enact their right to light fires in a safe, purpose made area. The carpet patterns based on Josh Walker’s artwork ‘Jalo Dreaming Fire’ communicate the sacred connection to country continued through fire maintenance practices.  The site is bordered by remnant bushland which is habitat for the island’s own genetically distinct population of koala. Kangaroos graze around the site on the old school ovals.



The majority of the project is an interior fitout utilising standard commercial finishes however there were a number of important artisan collaborations including the custom recycled carpet tile using artwork by traditional custodian Josh Walker, hand woven lights incorporating traditional and found materials by mother and daughter Sonja and Leecee Carmichael who are revitalising the island’s weaving culture and waste concrete tables with aggregate made from beach plastic collected locally.

Photography: Christopher Frederick Jones