First Nations Competency Crash Course - On Demand

First Nations Competency Crash Course - On Demand

First Nations Competency Crash Course

Available On Demand
8 Formal CPD points
This Masterclass is presented over four, two-hour online sessions

The First Nations Competency Crash Course has been developed in consultation with the First Nations Advisory Working Group and Cultural Reference Panel. 

This program offers an introduction to Indigenous knowledge, values, perspectives, cultural practices, and histories breaking down each aspect of the 2021 National Standard of Competencies for Architects (NSCA 2021) competencies relating to Country and First Nations peoples grounded in the context of architectural practice.

Our program explores the concepts of connecting, engaging and designing with Country and how each architect can reflect on their incorporation into their own practice.

This Masterclass program culminates with a series of case studies, shedding light on protocols for consultation and engagement through project initiation and delivery phases, the preparation of project and engagement plans, and approaches to embedding cultural expressions in design and planning from the concept design phase through project delivery to completion and beyond.

Image: Krakani-Lumi, Wukalina Courtesy Taylor and Hinds Architects


Learning Outcomes

On completion of this four-part Masterclass participants should be able to:

  • Understand the intentions and professional expectations embodied in the NSCA 2021 standards relating to First Nations
  • Define in practical terms key concepts including connecting with Country, designing with Country, and engaging with Community
  • Recognise gaps in knowledge and skills required to meet NSCA 2021, and devise a plan for upskilling
  • Demonstrate awareness of resources for learning about First Nations cultures, community, heritage 
  • Explain protocols for engagement through the project development and delivery phases
  • Use resources for researching Indigenous heritage and culture and identifying custodians of culture and knowledge
  • Apply methods of consultation to optimise engagement with Community
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of approaches to consultation and engagement

NSCA 2015 Performance Criteria

Our First Nations Competency Crash Course Masterclass will deliver outcomes related to the following Competencies from the 2015 National Standard of Competency for Architects:

1.3 Assessment of project budget and timeframe against project requirements and objectives.

2.1 Identification, analysis and integration of information relevant to siting of project.
2.6 Preparation and analysis of project development options in response to project brief. 

3.1 Design response integrates the objectives of brief, user intent and built purpose. 
3.2 Application of creative imagination, aesthetic judgement and critical evaluation in formulating design options
3.3 Design response incorporates assessment of the physical location and relevant wider regional, contextual and environmental issues.
3.8 Application of manual and digital graphic techniques and modelling to describe three dimensional form and spatial relationships.

4.2 Evaluation of design options against values of physical, environmental and cultural contexts.
4.4 Inclusion of expertise of relevant specialists and consultants in developing the project design.
4.6 Investigation and integration of appropriate material selection for the project design.

5.5 Integration of materials and components based upon an understanding of their physical properties.

9.7 Knowledge of legal and regulatory requirements and obligations in regard to architectural practice, practice management and registration as an architect. 


NSCA 2021 Performance Criteria

Our First Nations Competency Crash Course will deliver outcomes related to the following Competencies from the 2021 National Standard of Competency for Architects:

PC 1
Comply with the regulatory requirements and obligations pertaining to practice as an architect, including legislation, professional codes of conduct, obligations for continuing professional development and professional indemnity insurance. 
PC 3
Apply principles of project planning, considering implications for Country, environmental sustainability, communities, stakeholders and project costs. 
PC 8
Be able to implement culturally responsive and meaningful engagement processes that respect the importance of Country and reciprocal relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across architectural services.

PC 17
Have an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ aspirations to care for Country and how these inform architectural design. 
PC 20
Be able to assess project budget and timeframe against project requirements and objectives, relevant legislation, statutory planning requirements, building codes and standards. 
PC 24
Be able to prepare and analyse project development options in response to a project brief – its objectives, budget, user intent and built purpose, risk and timeframes, including environmental sustainability considerations. 
PC 27
Understand how to embed the knowledge, worldviews and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, shared through engagement processes, into the conceptual design in a meaningful, respectful and appropriate way. 
PC 29
Be able to develop and evaluate design options in terms of the heritage, cultural and community values embodied in the site, and in relation to project requirements. 
PC 30
Be able to explore options for siting a project, including integrating information and analysis of relevant cultural, social and economic factors. 
PC 34
Communicate conceptual design proposals and associated information to client, stakeholders and communities using appropriate and culturally responsive methods appropriate to different audiences.

PC 36
Be able to apply creative imagination, design precedents, emergent knowledge, critical evaluation and continued engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to produce a coherent project design. This should be resolved in terms of supporting health and wellbeing outcomes for Country, site planning, formal composition, spatial planning and circulation as appropriate to the project brief and all other factors affecting the project.
PC 41
Be able to coordinate and integrate input from specialists and consultants into the detailed design and documentation. 
PC 45
Be able to nominate and integrate quality and performance standards with regard to selected materials, finishes, fittings, components and systems, considering the impact on Country and the environment, and the whole life carbon impact of the project. This includes integrating life cycle assessments and other expertise and advice from consultants.

Part 1 – First Nations knowledge, values and experience: Basic building blocks for architects

Our program begins with an introduction to Indigenous knowledge, values, perspectives and worldviews, cultural practices, and histories. How do we see their shaping of the present and influence upon the context of our built environment?




Carroll Go-Sam is Dyirbal gumbilbara bama of Ravenshoe, North Queensland. She has research interests in Indigenous architecture where it intersects with public, civic, social and institutional architecture. Carroll is engaged in research, consultation and design practice with specific interests in Indigeneity in architecture and civic space and Indigenous-led housing. She is the co-lead of UQ's Campuses on Countries Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Design Framework (2020-21).

Carroll has presented at national and international events, symposia and conferences including Asis Pacific Architectural Forum, SAHANZ, IASTE, Brisbane Writers Festival, academic symposia and MPavillion Blakitecture. She was formerly Indigenous Design Place researcher (2017-2019) and worked on the research consultancy about safe drinking water in the Torres Strait Islands. Carroll is a recipient of the ARC Discovery Indigenous Award (2014-2016), and has worked with Professors Jane Hunter, Paul Memmott and Mark Moran on the project; Defining the Impact of Regionalism on Aboriginal Housing and Settlement.

Part 2 – Understanding First Nations standards of competency

As we proceed further into this Masterclass program our second session offers an overview of the new national competencies relating to Country and First Nations peoples grounded in the context of architecture, including the intent of including the Performance Criteria, a review of the Explanatory Notes, what each Performance Criterion is, and how they are applied at each level.




Dr Danièle Hromek is a Saltwater woman of the Budawang tribe of the Yuin nation, with French and Czech heritage. Danièle is a spatial designer and Country-Centred designer. Danièle is the first Indigenous person in Australia to achieve a PhD in built environment and spatial disciplines. Her research and experience contributed to the Connecting with Country framework and Designing with Country discussion piece by Government Architect NSW.

As director of Djinjama, Danièle’s methodologies lead their approach to working with Country. Her work as a researcher, educator and cultural advisor brings Country, culture and community to the built environment by creating spaces to substantially affect Indigenous rights and culture. Clients include state and local government, museums and galleries, as well as industry including architects, planners, designers, heritage and engineering firms.

Her research work considers Indigeneity in the built environment. It contributes an understanding of the Indigenous experience and comprehension of space, and investigates how Aboriginal people occupy, use, narrate, sense, dream and contest their spaces.



Sarah Lynn Rees is a Palawa woman descending from the Plangermaireener and Trawlwoolway people of northeast Tasmania. She practises architecture at Jackson Clements Burrows Architects (JCBA), where she's also a lead Indigenous advisor in architecture and design; is program advisor and curator of the BLAKitecture series for Mpavilion, a director of Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture, and a member of the Victorian Design Review Panel for the Office of the Victorian Government Architect. Sarah teaches at Monash University, and sits on the AIA Editorial Committee, as well as various other boards and advisory roles.

Sarah’s practice, advisory and research interests are geared towards a long-term aim of Indigenising the built environment.



Kathlyn has over 30 years of practice in the architectural profession, balanced with a business acumen secured by the principles learnt from an MBA and GAICD. Her experience has been across various building typologies for design, documentation and site services. These include hotel, apartment, residential, commercial, education (child care, primary and secondary), aged care, hospital, industrial and heritage buildings. She has appreciated multiple perspectives from experience working for US, UK and Australian businesses.  This includes Foster + Partners, SOM, AJ+C, Turner, and Crone. Kathlyn is the CEO of Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA). She is a Life Fellow (LFRAIA) and former President of the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Part 3 – Connecting, designing, and engaging with Country

Our third session in this Masterclass program explores the three core concepts of connecting with Country, designing with Country, and engaging with Country. Our presenter Dillon will explain the nature and importance of each, their relationships to one another, and share how architects can think about incorporating them in practice.




Dillon is a strategic design thinker and social conciliator with a passion for projects that seek to improve the health, well-being and prosperity of indigenous communities. With over 25 years of experience in architectural practice he brings his own unique indigenous perspective to re-imagining the built environment.

During this time Dillon has also been teaching and lecturing globally in many forums to shine a light on the hidden value of indigenous knowledge and how it can positively influence private and public agencies to deliver better outcomes for the built environment.

Part 4 – Designing with Country

Our program concludes with a series of case studies, presented by practices who are actively applying in their work the principles explored within this program. In this session we will see examples of best practice protocols for consultation and engagement through project initiation and delivery phases. We will review the way in which elements such as project plans and engagement plans are prepared in these cases, and examine the approaches taken to respecting and maintaining Country, and embedding cultural expressions in design and planning from the concept design phase through project delivery to completion and beyond.




Mat received his architectural education in both Tasmania and abroad, and registered as an Architect in Tasmania in 2011. In 2018 he was awarded the Tasmanian Emerging Architects Prize for his contribution to the profession. 

Driven and committed to a high-quality design outcome, Mat has a nuanced and technically astute architectural mind, and seeks sensitive, rigorous and affordable design outcomes. He has held teaching and associate lecturing and examiner positions at the University of Tasmania for over a decade, and has taught in a number of institutions internationally.



Jennie Officer is founding director of Officer Woods and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Design at the University of Western Australia. She is a past winner of the WA State Emerging Architect award (2010) and the Gil Nicol Travel Prize (2013) for enhancement of the built environment in WA. She makes regular contributions to architectural dialogue and knowledge by presentation and publication, and has served as a jury member at both State and National level for peer-reviewed awards programs across multiple categories. She is a current member of the inaugural WA State Design Review Panel and a current member of the City of Fremantle Design Advisory Committee. Jennie grew up in the remote Murchison region of Western Australia. Her background ensures resourcefulness and an ability to adapt and relate to a wide range of people and projects.



Trent Woods is a founding director of Officer Woods and winner of the Gil Nicol Travel Prize (2013) for enhancement of the built environment in WA. He has served as a Chapter Councillor for the Australian Institute of Architects WA Chapter (2010-16) and Urban Design Committee member (2009-15). Trent is a current member of the City of Rockingham Design Advisory Committee, and was a member of the City of Fremantle Economic Development Working Group. Trent’s architectural leadership combines strong design advocacy with rigorous project delivery knowledge.



David Kaunitz as a Director of Kaunitz Yeung Architecture is focused on facilitating high quality architecture in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Australian and Asia – Pacific. Underlying this is a deep commitment to participatory design and local construction. They have a significant body of award-winning architecture and have worked in more than 40 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island communities, 200 Pacific Island communities as well as in Asia. This includes prestigious awards such as the Union of International Architects, Vassilis Sgoutas Prize the world’s highest architectural honor for working with the underprivileged.



Born and raised on Gadigal land, Marni Reti is a proud Palawa and Ngatiwai woman – Palawa being the First Nations people of Tasmania, and Ngatiwai being the Indigenous people from the Northland Region of New Zealand. 

Marni is one of the first recipients of the prestigious Droga Indigenous Architecture Scholarship at the University of Technology Sydney where she completed her Master of Architecture degree. She currently works at Kaunitz Yeung Architecture who have been widely recognised for their projects working with and for Indigenous communities.

In 2021 Marni Reti received the NSW Architects Registration Board 2021 Architects Medallion. This is awarded to one NSW architecture graduate each year. In its unanimous decision, the Jury's Citation noted Marni's exceptional talent ‘as creative thinker who is deeply committed to engagement with Indigenous communities, bringing a breadth of experience and insight that is rare in a person so young.'

Additionally, Marni recently received the 2022 Sustainability Award for Best Emerging Architect/Designer. 

Already operating within strongly defined ethical boundaries, Marni has a clear vision of her future purpose as an architect and the extra cultural dimension she has to offer as a proud Palawa and Ngatiwai woman.



Finn Pedersen has an interest in technology, cultural change and society, and the way that geography effects change on the people and organisms inhabiting that terrain. Finn has practiced throughout Western Australia for 25 years working on a variety of projects including regional and remote housing and infrastructure projects for Aboriginal communities, socially sustainable public infrastructure in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Eastern Goldfields Regions of WA.

Finn is a co-founding member of Environs Kimberley, a Broome based environmental group promoting landscape preservation and sustainable development in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. He is Vice Chairperson of the Wyemando and Jimmy Pike Trusts which provide funds to assist Aboriginal Language and cultural preservation and art practice development. He completed a Masters of Architecture by Research at RMIT University. Titled “Remotely Sustainable: Architecture of Necessity”, his research explored the impact of effective design solutions for indigenous housing in the North West of Australia and set the groundwork for the extensive work that IPH have completed in this area.

Finn is regarded internationally for his expertise in sustainable and culturally appropriate design and Australian Aboriginal community consultation.


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