PhD Scholarship in Indigenous Urban Water Design

Monash University

Caulfield VIC, Australia 🇦🇺

Job No.: 628678

Location: Caufield campus

Employment Type: Full-time

Duration: 3-year and 3-month fixed-term appointment

Remuneration: The successful applicant will receive a Research Living Allowance at current value of $29,500 per annum 2021 full-time rate (tax-free stipend), indexed plus allowances as per RTP stipend scholarship conditions at:

The Opportunity

The Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab along with the Urban Lab at Monash University invite applications for a fully funded, 3.25-year PhD scholarship for commencement in 2022 offered by the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture. 

The successful candidate will participate in a collaborative research project funded by the Australian Research Centre Linkage Program – Repairing Memory and Place: An Indigenous approach to Urban Water Design. This project is a collaboration led by Monash University and the University of New South Wales in partnership with the Boon Wurrung Foundation, City of Port Phillip, City of Bayside, Melbourne Water and Museums Victoria. The project will work to repair the separation between memories of water, water management and the material presence of water in the local government areas of Port Phillip and Bayside in the southeast of Melbourne. Using On Country Learning methods in combination with digital technologies, this project will create tools to enhance water management practices, allowing for a diversity of ways of knowing to be shared and integrated into everyday practices and management of the city.

The PhD candidate will participate in immersive and collaborative research methodologies based in Indigenous ways of knowing including On Country Learning and Yarning circles. Fieldwork will be undertaken on site in the south-east of Melbourne by walking and documenting water above and below ground. Historical water research will also form part of the PhD and this will be undertaken through archival research as well as spatial mapping of contemporary and historic data. The PhD student will collaborate closely with Museums Victoria and the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre to find, process and analyse secondary data and be involved in the creation of a large-scale, high profile public exhibition at the culmination of the project at Melbourne Museum.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Professor Brian Martin, N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM and Professor Nigel Bertram but will also work closely with the wider academic research team including Dr Laura Harper, Dr Marilu Melo Zurita and Catherine Murphy and Partner Investigators Dr Shannon Faulkhead from Museums Victoria and Rhys Coleman from Melbourne Water. In addition, the candidate will work with the research officer, who will be engaged to work on the project.

The PhD candidate will be integrated into both MADA’s Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab and the Urban Lab. Wominjeka Djeembana was established in 2019 with the driving principle to provide a culturally appropriate research training site for Indigenous researchers and to increase the participation of Indigenous students. Since 2000, Lab director Professor Brian Martin has mentored close to 150 Indigenous students in undergraduate and postgraduate studies in a range of disciplines including fine arts, design, anthropology, health, law and education. Recently funded projects such as the Treelines-Kulin Nations (funded by Creative Victoria) and “More than a guulany (tree): Aboriginal knowledge systems” (funded by the ARC) demonstrate the Lab’s growing recognition and strength in Indigenous-led research. The recent appointment of Boon Wurrung Elder N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs brings deep local Indigenous knowledge to the heart of the Lab. Wominjeka Djeembana provides a supportive environment for Indigenous scholars, recognising the challenges that can be faced within the University setting. 

The Urban Lab has an established and renowned research environment including academic staff, permanent research assistants and PhD students in the fields of Architecture, Urban Design and Planning. The Lab has a strong track record on delivering industry-funded projects and large government-funded grants including Professor Nigel Bertram’s work on the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities. The Urban Lab has an active, student-led PhD culture, and PhD candidates are encouraged to share and collaborate with the wider academic community within MADA. 

Monash University is the largest university in Australia and regularly ranks in the top 100 universities worldwide. Monash has six globally networked campuses and international alliances in Europe and Asia. The applicant will be based at the Caulfield campus in Melbourne. The Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Monash has a vibrant and supportive research culture led by internationally recognised scholars, and a strong track record in attracting national and international competitive funding.

Further information about the project and research environment

Indigenous Urban Water Design

Australian cities are Indigenous places. Indigenous ways of knowing, however, are largely absent in Australian urban policies and practices. Australian cities were founded on the unceded lands and waters of Indigenous Peoples. The built environment in cities has been uncritically centred on planning, architecture and engineering practices that displace Indigenous memory and materiality. 

In recent years, along with the fight for recognition of Indigenous groups and their sovereignty, the need for Indigenous Urbanism has been addressed by Indigenous practitioners and scholars who have put forward an approach to design practices centred on the relationship to Country: the Australian Indigenous Design Charter, establishes a framework for respectful and ethical collaboration with Indigenous people and place. This project builds on the Charter to explore new modes of integrating Indigenous ways of knowing in the design and planning of the urban, specifically the spaces of water. Water in this project is conceptualised as a social and natural presence in the city with legacies of past waterbodies and flows that remain in memory, in stories and in archives, and that have also left material traces of their paths. 

This project aims to elevate Indigenous urban water design as an approach for reconceptualising and better using urban space in Australian cities, through a southeast Melbourne case study. The project will benefit Melbourne’s urban environment through the development of more sustainable water management systems able to cope with continued change in water conditions, with findings indirectly benefiting other Australian cities. By producing an integrated water management model – premised on the importance of Country and embodying the interconnected, above and below ground flows of water – this project will have environmental benefits for biodiversity and water ecologies, economic benefits from a better understanding of flood conditions in the city, and socio-cultural benefits through better protection of culturally significant sites and systems.    

Professor Brian Martin is a descendant of Bundjalung, MurraWarri and Kamilaroi peoples, a leading arts practitioner and theorist, director of the Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab and Associate Dean Indigenous at the Monash Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (MADA). Martin is a world leader in methods of collaborative design with Indigenous stakeholders as demonstrated in his work on the award-winning Australian and International Indigenous Design Charters. Martin has extensive track record managing and delivering impactful outputs from funded projects and recently received the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Award for research impact.

N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM is a Boon Wurrung Senior Elder and designer, and a Senior Indigenous Research Fellow at MADA. CI Briggs has been proactive in the promotion and maintenance of Boon Wurrung culture and language for over 40 years, recognised most recently through her award of Member of the Order (AM) of Australia 2019 and in being elected member of the inaugural First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria 2019. Briggs has extensive experience in On Country learning methods and knowledge of waterways in Melbourne and beyond which she has shared in collaborative research and educational projects including Connecting to Sea Country (2013-ongoing) which mentors’ Indigenous youth in marine science, and the Bunjil Nest Project (2014-ongoing) which  redesigns early-childhood curriculum around Indigenous knowledge. She has recently completed a PhD on connecting urban Indigenous youth to heritage. 

Professor Nigel Bertram is a Practice Professor in the Urban Lab at MADA and Director of NMBW Architecture Studio. Bertram has expert knowledge of the urban water management in the region of southeast Melbourne through his recent work on the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, research which informed the publication In Time With Water co-authored with Catherine Murphy. Bertram has extensive experience in delivering industry funded research projects in an academic setting as well as urban design and architectural project in practice.

Candidate Requirements

The successful applicant will have a deep interest and engagement with Indigenous design and research in either academic or practice based settings and an excellent track record including a Master’s degree or equivalent, in art, design or planning based disciplines which may include architecture, planning, water management or a cognate discipline or interdisciplinary area. 

Prior training and experience in relevant research areas will be of benefit to the candidate but is not essential. In line with the aims and ethic of the Wominjeka Djeembana Lab, the successful candidate will have opportunities to build skills and experience and grow research capacity over the three-year period supported by the wider research team. Relevant areas of experience include conducting qualitative or ethnographic research in an academic or practice-based setting; experience in innovative Indigenous and futures research methods and approaches; familiarity with Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) and Geospatial information systems (GIS). 

In its assessment, the selection committee will prioritise applicants who hold an Australian (or equivalent international) Honour’s or Master’s degree (in a relevant field), with a significant research component and with first or second class honours or a practitioner or researcher with significant creative or industry based experience in Indigenous related research areas, design, urban studies or water management.

The successful applicant will be expected to enrol by 1 March 2022, however, there may be some flexibility as to the date of commencement.

Submit an Expression of Interest (EOI)

EOIs shall comprise:

  • A cover letter that includes a brief statement of the applicant’s suitability
  • A brief research proposal not exceeding 750 words in length that fits within the broad project aims and objectives, and demonstrates some understanding of the area of research
  • A curriculum vitae, including a list of any published works, conference presentations and relevant work experience
  • A full statement of academic record, supported by scanned copies of relevant certified documentation
  • Contact details of two academic referees

It is important that you contact Professor Brian Martin [email protected], N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM [email protected] or Professor Nigel Bertram [email protected] prior to submission of the EOI to discuss the project.

EOIs should be sent, preferably in the form of a single attachment.

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed (over Skype/zoom if necessary). The interviews will be conducted in English.

In the context of COVID-19, the University is required to comply with various health directions issued from time to time by the Chief Health Officer. Further information concerning vaccination requirements and the obligations on Monash University to collect, record and hold vaccination information about employees is available at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Victoria, please select COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions.


Enquiries should be addressed to Professor Brian Martin [email protected] or N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs [email protected] or Ms Catherine Murphy [email protected] or Professor Nigel Bertram [email protected]

Closing Date

Wednesday 26 January 2022, 11:55pm AEDT

Please note: Monash University will be closed from 23 December 2021 until 3 January 2022 inclusive.


Supporting a diverse workforce