School of Architecture

The Aboriginal Environments Research Centre (AERC) is a research centre based in the School of Architecture at the University of Queensland (Australia).

It was originally established in 1976 as the 'Aboriginal Data Archive' (ADA). The ADA's resources were gradually established throughout the 1970s and 80s by Prof Paul Memmott, who operated a consulting practice in Aboriginal projects. It was formalised as AERC in 1995.

The AERC performs four functions: it is a research centre, a teaching centre, an archive and engages in consultancy. The centre's work focuses on the cultures and environments of Indigenous peoples.

The Centre has been constructed within a theoretical framework combining behaviour–environment studies and environmental psychology that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s with social anthropology. Research interests are in the areas of architectural anthropology and material culture, Aboriginal housing and institutional architecture, Indigenous homelessness and public place dwelling, Indigenous family violence, and Indigenous geography of place and cultural landscape. Prof Memmott has over 280 publications, including his prize-winning book, Gunyah Goondie and Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia (2007).

The AERC’s architectural anthropological framework developed through regular engagement with Australian indigenous people and their environments including: the transactional people–environment relationship model, constructs of “person”, religious beliefs, and the environment; a model of classical Aboriginal geography; the concept of the “intercultural” in indigenous governance and service delivery and the concept of the “recognition space”; and the Aboriginal behaviour setting.

The transdisciplinary theoretical framework and its constituent elements presented above are tools used by architectural anthropologists in the AERC for addressing complex social problems.

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