Architect Embraces Indigenous Worldview in Australian Designs

Jefa Greenaway will never forget the first time he heard his father’s voice. It was in 2017, when he was watching a documentary about Indigenous Australians’ fight to be recognized in the country’s Constitution.

“It was poignant, surreal,” Mr. Greenaway recalled. “In one word: emotional.”

In the film, his father, Bert Groves, an Indigenous man and a civil rights activist born in 1907, recounts how he was prevented from pursuing an education because of the size of his skull, a victim of phrenology, the pseudoscience that lingered in Australia into the 20th century.

Now 53, Mr. Greenaway, was just a baby when his father died, leaving him to be raised in Australia by his German mother. Yet his father’s values — like championing Indigenous rights and valuing education —- were inculcated in the young boy.

Mr. Greenaway is today one of what he estimates to be fewer than 20 registered Indigenous architects in Australia. He’s also a leading proponent of what is known as “Country-centered design,” which brings an Aboriginal worldview to building projects.

“People like Jefa are rare,” said Peter Salhani, an Australian architectural journalist who has admired Mr. Greenways’ work in Melbourne for some years. His projects, Mr. Salhani said, “are unquestionably of the Indigenous voice — we need that now more than ever.”

Mr. Greenaway sharing a photo of his parents. Explaining his first name, the architect said, “It is from the pen name my father used. He was also a writer, a poet. It stands for justice and equality for all.”Credit…Tamati Smith for The New York Times

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