Edith Cowan University: recognition of Noongar culture at the heart of the city’s planned new campus

In recognition of Noongar culture, Edith Cowan University (ECU) has unveiled a newly commissioned piece of art as work begins on its future Perth City Campus.

As a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and educational excellence, the special digital brand was created by local Whadjuk, Ballardong and Yuat artist Jarni McGuire as part of the visual place-making program More wide of ECU City, and will be on display during the new campus. ‘ construction phase.

The artistic mark tells an ancient story of people and places. It conveys a shared sense of history and tells of the transformation of Perth, known as Boorloo to the Noongar people.

The digital artwork also represents the contribution of two historical female figures whose legacies have left a lasting impact on Western Australia and the ECU: Fanny Balbuk and Edith Cowan herself.

Fanny Balbuk Yooreel was a prominent Noongar woman. She was a leader and visionary who walked the Perth lake system to advocate for the land rights of its people, including traversing the area around the ECU City site.

ECU’s namesake, Edith Dircksey Cowan, was the first woman elected to an Australian parliament and a recognized leader in social reform to improve the rights of women and children.

Together, the contribution of these two trailblazing women will be at the heart of the vision for the new campus, as a place where history is shared and futures are created.

ECU City will be a state-of-the-art creative industries, business and technology campus that will reshape Perth’s central business district and redefine higher education as Perth’s city center’s first comprehensive university campus.

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The $853 million university campus is jointly funded by the City of Perth Settlement, with the Australian Government committing $294 million, the Western Australian Government $199 million and ECU $360 million.

The artwork is part of ECU City’s transitional communications program, developed to sit alongside the University’s existing brand identity and specific to the city’s campus development through completion in late 2025.

A video showing the creative development of the artwork, along with images from the new ECU City Noongar Culture wordmark, artist Jarni McGuire and Professor Braden Hill, can be downloaded via: https://we.tl/t-CExeMD8o2Y

Quotes attributable to the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King:

“The Australian Government is proud to be a major contributor to this project, with the new campus set to transform Perth’s CBD, attracting a vibrant student community and stimulating the local and regional economy.

“This is another exciting milestone for the project, which will unlock opportunities, provide a wide range of educational opportunities, and bring excitement and people to the heart of the state capital.

“I am pleased to see this new ECU downtown campus honoring outstanding women leaders and placing First Nations culture and history at the center of its vision.”

Quotes attributable to WA Minister for Transport, Planning and Ports, Rita Saffioti:

“The state government is proud to invest nearly $200 million in the ECU City project, which will bring thousands of students and staff to Perth and Northbridge every day and provide a huge boost to the local economy and businesses.

“This piece of art celebrates the culture of our local indigenous peoples and recognizes the importance of the land where the campus will be located.

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“As we’ve seen with other landmarks, the Matagarup Bridge, Boola Bardip, our city is increasingly embracing traditional stories.”

Citations attributable to Perth Federal Member Patrick Gorman:

“It is significant that Perth’s new city center university campus makes this recognition of the rich First Nations history and culture that has shaped its location.

“The Noongar Culture wordmark will serve as a symbolic reflection of the culture embedded in a modern learning facility.

“As a beacon of learning for the future, I am pleased to see the ECU Perth campus recognizing the cultural significance of the land on which it stands.”

Citations attributable to ECU Assistant Vice Chancellor (Students, Equity and Indigenous), Professor Braden Hill:

“The new brand pays homage to the past while symbolizing the University’s vision for the future.

“The vibrant piece reflects ECU’s transformation as a young, modern university while acknowledging that ECU City will be established in one of the world’s oldest places of learning.

“It also represents the cultural crossroads of many nations and communities coming together to learn and exchange knowledge at ECU City, echoing how the people of Whadjuk Noongar have associated with this place for thousands of years.

“This is an important part of the comprehensive ways in which we are honoring knowledge and indigenous peoples in the development of our new city campus.

“ECU is proud to develop its new campus in an area that holds great importance. Both Fanny Balbuk and Edith Cowan were champions of social justice and our new campus will honor their legacies.”

Quotes attributable to artist Jarni McGuire of Whadjuk, Ballardong and Yuat:

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“My design is inspired by the people and the natural landscape of the area, and in particular the women who have left their legacy.

“I really wanted this piece to represent a bide, a journey or a path that students pass through, where they blossom to come out the other end.

“I also wanted this piece to talk about the lake system that was here before settlement. Goologoolup Lake, which is where the new ECU City Campus will be located, is relevant to the story of Fanny Balbuk and her bidee and how she walked from Matagarup to this lake.

“The texture, the colors and the circles represent the flora and fauna and the 14 Noongar groups of the place. He really wanted to capture the full picture and history of that place in this piece.

“Overall, I wanted this piece to represent the strength and resilience of Fanny Balbuk and Edith Cowan, but also the strength of my community. I really wanted it to be something they were proud of and saw themselves in.”

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