Designing an on-country engineering education experience in collaboration with the Gunditjmara community

professional development

G01, Ground Floor Elisabeth Murdoch Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville


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Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education

T: 03 8344 4605


For several years Australian universities have been concerned with increasing the participation of Indigenous students in higher education. Various motivations and objectives influence the design and development of programs and initiatives. Juliana will share the philosophy, values and practices underpinning the design of a new subject, developed as a collaborative venture between the Melbourne School of Engineering and the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation at the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape at Lake Condah in south-west Victoria.

Working in an emergent and iterative process, she has evolved a educational framework which includes

  • philosophy and practice;
  • people, including and opportunity to learn about pre-colonial, colonial and contemporary aspects;
  • place, including two residential visits to Budj Bim - a living cultural landscape; and
  • projects, identified and prioritised by the Gunditjmarra community.

The collaborative design and delivery of the subject provided a rich learning for both students and engineering educators, including lessons learned in:

  • Aboriginal cultural heritage, including how how Indigenous cultural heritage informs and shapes the engineering design;
  • Aboriginal community consultation protocols and principles through engagement with the Gunditjmara community;
  • Indigenous engineering in the Budj Bim context; and
  • development of student projects that are relevant and meaningful to the Gunditjmara community


Dr Juliana Kaya Prpic is an educator and researcher in the Engineering Learning Unit at the Melbourne School of Engineering. She teaches three multidisciplinary project-based subjects - "Leading Change in a Complex World", "Sustainability in Developing Communities", and Indigenous Engineering and Design, which is collaboratively designed and delivered with the Gunditjmara community. She also serves as an Indigenous Engineering Education Coordinator, engaging with Indigenous communities around Australia to explore and integrate Indigenous perspectives and knowledges into the engineering curriculum. Her research interests include humanitarian engineering, two-way, experiential and transformational learning, transdisciplinary, multi-cultural ways of knowing, and reflective practice.