Bawoorrooga SuperAdobe Earthhouse

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There is an urgent need for a model of Indigenous housing that directly engages community, is sustainable, affordable, and easily-replicated.

In 2020, FISH and the remote Aboriginal community of Bawoorrooga finished constructing the first SuperAdobe (earthbag) home in the Kimberley, with the community members’ involvement from design to completion. The house is part of FISH’s work in creating a national prototype for sustainable Indigenous housing, education, training, and enterprise. The project also involves a newly-planted food forest orchard of 500 plants, of 30 species, as well as ongoing work to establish a Worker’s Camp and Enterprise Centre at Bawoorrooga.

This project demonstrates that a broken community can stand up and build their own future. The community has constructed their home and orchard from the red earth of Gooniyandi homeland. The community members’ hard work – young and old – is a lasting and sustainable example of Aboriginal empowerment. 

“A national prototype for sustainable Indigenous community ownership, training, employment, housing and enterprise development”

The catalyst was a devastating 2017 fire which destroyed the home and possessions of Bawoorrooga community leaders, Claude Carter and Andrea Pindan, leaving their entire family residing in a tin shed. Bawoorrooga community members were traumatised, not only from the fire, but from the impact of generational trauma; pervasive throughout Indigenous Australia. FISH staff Kristian Rodd and Jara Romero-Escolar lived full-time at Bawoorrooga to understand the community needs, and to build community trust and engagement. Supported and encouraged by FISH, the community embraced this opportunity to rebuild, despite daunting challenges.

We have seen Bawoorrooga transition from trauma to pride, and from dependence to independence. By enabling the community to plan and take control of the build, they have discovered their capabilities and have realised that they can shape their futures. The project created a local leadership base which is permanent, Indigenous, and culturally-connected to the land. Bawoorrooga has been restored as a place of cultural leadership – well-known for traditional healing, art, and knowledge of homeland. Every project step is an education and training opportunity. Literacy and numeracy was interwoven with practical and vocational skills. The community leaders have proudly given the following feedback:

“We’d like to thank everyone for helping us heal. All that is behind us now – we’re moving forward. We hope this sort of project can happen in other communities that are battling like us… We’ve always got a big smile now. Before, it was really a downfall. Now, we feel our ‘lien’ (spirit) is going up and up as we build these walls. We feel ‘wideo’ (happy) – like your soul is really strong… It’s really happening now – things are growing.”

Our earth-house embodies ecological sustainability. Its walls, floors and foundations are built from earth and stone – local and non-polluting. The house is thermally-efficient, low-maintenance, comfortable and durable.

In April 2020, FISH and Bawoorrooga officially completed construction of the Super Adobe home, with the community members’ involvement from design to completion. The community members’ hard work (young and old) is a lasting and sustainable example of Aboriginal empowerment.

In 2019, the project was awarded the United Nations Human Rights Award WA, for achievements in furthering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project was also a selected finalist for the Banksia Sustainability Award, which also recognises excellence in sustainability and towards the United Nations’ SDGs. The community members’ hard work (young and old) is a lasting and sustainable example of Aboriginal empowerment. 

You can learn more about the project through our TEDx UWA talk, here

For a more detailed analysis, read our peer-reviewed article in Sustainability Journal, here

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