University of Melbourne


Local Cultures – Global Spaces: Communities, People and Place



Decolonising Spatial Theories, Pedagogies & Practices

Waves of global exploration, colonisation and migration have been transforming local cultures in the Indo-Pacific region, and the Global South. since the 15th century. National settler policies in Australia, specifically, continue to deterritorialise Indigenous peoples, excluding or subordinating their lifeworlds. Decolonising discourse, pedagogy and creative practices in the built environments is now an acute contemporary concern. The University of Melbourne, which is hosting this strand, is located on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri, and takes an important focus on this local place, as well as on the Indo-Pacific region and the Global South more broadly.

Alongside colleagues in all parts of the world, we must address crucial questions that arise from the places where we are:

  • What does it mean to research, teach, and work on the unceded sovereign lands of First Nations peoples?
  • How are the built environment and spatial disciplines complicit in processes of dispossession?
  • How might damaged environments be restored, and how might the connections of people and place be supported in this?
  • How can postcolonial-, immigrant- and refugee-settlers build respectful relationships with Indigenous stakeholders that cross race, culture and class?


We invite submissions that grapple with these conundrums across or between theory, pedagogy and creative practice.

Engagement with theory might focus on critical race theories, border thinking, postcolonial discourse, Indigenous place-making, situated practices, intersectionality, placelessness, and care relations.

A focus on pedagogy could explore or explain practical steps to decolonise/indigenise curriculum in design (architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and interior design), new modes of site-seeing, participatory policy development, Indigenising history & theory, cultural competency education, caring for Country, indigenising pedagogies or teaching practices, and meeting professional competencies for accreditation.

Contributions relating to creative practices may share or present non-traditional research outputs, including works that explore place meaning or territorial contestation through design for the built or living environment, digital art, environmental art, critical spatial practices, or traditional craft.

All participants will also be invited to join in making a collaborative work called Grounding that connects the physical places where we will gather across the placelessness of Zoom – more later.


Part of the conference Local Cultures – Global SpacesSee Full Call

Research Context


Through our unique breadth and transdisciplinary focus, we carry out creative, fundamental and applied research projects into the past, present and future of our built and natural environments. Our research makes real and lasting impacts and critically informs the teaching of future generations of practitioners, researchers and designers. Our research directions address the university’s three broad research areas: understanding our place and purpose, fostering health and wellbeing, and supporting sustainability and resilience.

The Faculty undertakes research that understands how we create and live in cities, landscapes and buildings. Melbourne School of Design also has an international reputation for excellence in graduate research. Our researchers are experienced scholars, leading debate and engaging with industry, policy-makers and the community towards real-world outcomes.



Janet McGaw, PhD, Associate Professor in Architectural Design and Practice

More information: University of Melbourne  |  UniMelb Research  |  Department of Architecture, Planning & Design  |   Melbourne School of Design

Submit an Abstract   |   Return to Full Call