SHAPE helps bring new life to Moondani Balluk, Victoria University’s Indigenous Centre

Moondani Balluk, Victoria University’s Indigenous Centre
SHAPE Melbourne

SHAPE celebrates the completion of the fitout, structural refurbishment, and landscaping of Victoria University’s Moondani Balluk – Indigenous Academic Unit and Aboriginal History Archive.

Located at the heart of Victoria University’s Footscray Park campus, Moondani Balluk is a culturally safe and supportive place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff to deliver teaching, research and support across Aboriginal, non-governmental organisations and community spaces. Moondani Balluk means ‘embrace people’ in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people, who first lived in the western region of Melbourne.

The initial stages of this project saw the SHAPE Melbourne team deliver the ground floor refurbishment of the new campus, featuring office and research spaces, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and hosting space. A notable feature of this project is the archive and cool room, which will house and preserve an extensive collection of historical artwork, artefacts, documents, and AV materials held by Moondani Balluk. The SHAPE team had also reconfigured two facades to create new East and West entries into the space.

The space showcases a natural palette composed of materials such as environmentally friendly wood wool panels, cork flooring and Victorian Ash windows. Additionally, integrated within the design space are highlight windows that allow the rooms to be visibly connected throughout the floor while providing privacy.

A significant feature of this project was the integration of two art components by Dr Paola Balla, a Wemba-Wemba and Gunditjmara woman, award-winning visual artist and Aboriginal lecturer and researcher at Moondani Balluk. The first art component is a mural, installed in her office, which features an element of Dr Paola’s biggest commission to date, her design for ‘Melbourne Art Trams’ – a tram wrapped with the words ‘Blak Love’ – which she created for the Rising Festival in Melbourne 2022.

Moondani Balluk, Victoria University’s Indigenous Centre

‘Melbourne Art Trams’

The second art component is custom cantilevered planters that can be seen wrapped around both the East and West entries. The eye-catching planter incorporates Dr Paola’s artwork into the shape, pattern, texture, and colour of the finished product. This was delivered through collaboration with Dr Paola, Victoria University, architects Gresley Abas, Artist Merit, ShapeShift and the SHAPE project team.

Moondani Balluk, Victoria University’s Indigenous Centre

Moondani Balluk means ‘embrace people’ in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people, who first lived in the western region of Melbourne.

To open the new campus, the SHAPE Melbourne team were given the opportunity to participate in a traditional smoking ceremony facilitated by Victoria University. The ceremony was conducted by Karen Jackson, a Yorta Yorta woman, and Director of the Moondani Balluk. As part of the ceremony, flora from around campus was burnt to create smoke, which was used to cleanse the people and the land to allow for a brighter future.

Moondani Balluk, Victoria University’s Indigenous Centre

Smoking Ceremony.

And thank you to all involved, Victoria University, Gresley Abas, Connor Pincus, Turner and Townsend, Slattery, and Realm Studio.