The Murama Healing Space: an interview with Dr John Hunter

In August 2023, Macquarie University's Professor Kate Lloyd led a team of students on a field trip to The Murama Healing Space at Sydney Olympic Park. What was once an armory has been transformed, through the process of Indigenous led co-design and management, into a dedicated place for community to gather and to share culture, stories and healing.

After a day of storytelling, weaving demonstrations, a smoking ceremony and a tour of the Wangal Walk, Kate sat down with Dr John Hunter, Co-Chair of Murama Cultural Council to chat about the ingredients required for successful Indigenous co-design and why it's important today's planning students see it in action. Dr Hunter says one of the key elements is taking the time to listen to community.

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Video: Mountain High Media

"... actually listening to the voices of community and taking the time to walk with us and allow us to work in partnership - a true partnership - where we are brought along in the journey and our community deadlines are respected. I think that process is what created a space that was healing."

Dr John Hunter
Weaving demonstration at Murama. Photo: Mountain High Images
Smoking ceremony at Murama. Photo: Mountain High Images

Dr Hunter explains that Murama is about people working together through values based on traditional ways of doing business in Aboriginal communities. It's about indigenising the space - not just the physical space but government space too.

He says, "Students need to see that model of co-design in action, because we can talk about it, but we need to show them how it works in reality. There's so many layers of government and so many moving parts to planning, you really need to get down to the grassroots to see how it happens at the coal face.

"The Healing Space is a venue you can do that with students. They can sit in this beautiful yarning circle and they can talk to community, they can ask questions and we can take them on that journey. It changes the adult education teaching and learning process."

Student story maps

As part of their Geography and Planning field school Unit, our students produced story maps aimed at different audiences, which also demonstrate the learning that can take place from engaging with Country and Indigenous leaders.

Rethinking Public Spaces - a digital field trip for Planners

This field trip focuses on the co-design of the public spaces in Sydney Olympic Park. It contains questions and reflections for planners about how we can respond to Country using initiatives such as the Connecting with Country Framework, and how we can activate cultural and spiritual aspects of Indigenous Country.

Explore this story map

Sydney Olympic Park - a digital field trip for primary school children

This digital field trip is aimed at primary school children and encourages them to consider the historical, ecological and innovative spaces within Sydney Olympic Park. Students will be asked to observe, ask questions and collect information as they make their way through the story map.

Explore this story map

An avian guide to Sydney Olympic Park parkland ecology

This story map integrates cartographic features and points of interest of the local area onto the map's user-interface, requiring viewer/human navigation (zooming in by clicking and panning by dragging with each slide) to fully experience the bird's-eye perspective of our Eastern Curlew narrator.

Explore this story map

Dr John Hunter at Murarma. Photo: courtesy Transport for NSW

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