Human geographer Dr Marilu Melo Zurita from the Environment and Society Group at UNSW Sydney is part of an innovative new collaboration project led by Monash University’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture.

Dr Marilu Melo Zurita, Human Geographer, UNSW Sydney Environment and Society Group

Repairing Memory & Place: An Indigenous-led approach to urban water design will integrate Indigenous ways of knowing with urban water management, providing significant benefits by enabling the repair of ecological and cultural memory of place and enabling government agencies to apply Indigenous practices to everyday management of urban water. The project is being led by Indigenous scholars and elders and focuses on the bayside coastal area in Melbourne’s south-east, Boon Wurrung Country. 

Senior Boon Wurrung Elder N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM is one of the Chief Investigators on the project, along with Associate Dean, Indigenous, Professor Brian Martin and Professor Nigel Bertram. Dr Briggs says that “the project is about addressing the fundamental importance of water to Indigenous people, to Country, and ensuring that this is understood and incorporated into broader practices and attitudes towards water”. 

Dr Melo Zurita joins an interdisciplinary research team that includes Dr Laura Harper, Ms Catherine Murphy, Dr Shannon Faulkhead and Rhys Coleman, in partnership with Melbourne Water Corporation, Museums Victoria, Bayside City Council, City of Port Phillip and Boon Wurrung Foundation. Dr Melo Zurita’s role is to conduct research within the field of human geography, particularly groundwater, paying attention to subterranean spaces and their connection to surface processes. 

“The inception of the project itself is a result of this way of thinking about and knowing Country,” says Dr Melo Zurita. 

“My contribution to the project draws from my previous experience conducting research on water governance and underground urbanism. I will draw on this experience to conduct primary research for the project in collaboration with key stakeholders.”

The project, which commences in late January 2021, has been awarded $240,000 in funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant scheme.

A scholarship is currently being offered for PhD student to join the project in March 2022. The candidate should 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. More information on the PhD opportunity can be found on the Monash website.