One out of Four: Marni Reti’s #NAIDOC2018 Reflection

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This week, we’ll be sharing perspectives of three indigenous Australian Cox students in celebration of NAIDOC Week 2018.

Marni Reti is a student at Cox Architecture in Sydney, and has considered the 2018 theme, ‘Because of Her, We Can!’ in relation to her experience as an architecture student. 

 

One out of Four

My name is Marni Reti. I’m a proud Palawa and Ngatiwai woman and last year I completed my Bachelor of Design in Architecture at the University of Technology Sydney.

Currently, as of July 2018, UTS educates 4 Indigenous students in their school of Architecture. That’s 1 student per yearly cohort from first year of undergrad to fourth year (masters). With cohorts ranging between 120 to 300 students each year, and an estimated average of 210 students in currently each year, Indigenous students make up 1.9% of the UTS architecture school.

These statistics are a good indication of how many registered Indigenous architects there are in this country. However, they are in no way an indication that we are less likely to succeed than our non-Indigenous peers academically or professionally. For me, these statistics merely shift the lens through which I perceive architecture.

I went through my entire undergraduate degree as the only Aboriginal student in my cohort, and the other 3 UTS architecture students will do the same in the coming years. This was the first time in my life that I hadn’t had the support and history of my mob immediately around me.

The lack of Indigenous representation and history in the university curriculum made me question how we are taught architecture, and how this glaring hole in our architectural education might deepen the lack of indigenous representation in the discipline.

I’ve been told by my first-year students that they were given a ‘History and Theory’ lecture on Indigenous Australia during their first semester. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s the Aboriginal ways of thinking and creating space that I would really like to see ingrained in our initial architectural education.

For our mob, people and nature come first and whatever happens around those people or on that land is secondary; buildings, infrastructure, and physical manifestation of design is all secondary to the people and land that are going to inhabit it and it be inhabiting. Architecture, for me, is the housing and utilisation of people and our beautiful natural landscape.

Architecture degrees are hard (just ask anyone who’s started one!), no matter who you are or where you come from. We all cope differently, be it with pure determination, the power of will, true passion and inspiration, or all three at once.

As the only indigenous student in my year, and as a black woman, it has been hard to not have the support system of strong black women that I’ve become so reliant on around me during my studies.

Every single thing I do can be accredited to the women around me, particularly my mum. I could have every determination and inspiration for my goals but without the intelligent, strong, passionate and caring women who taught me how to be all of those things it wouldn’t have mattered.

The theme of NAIDOC week 2018 is Because of Her, We Can, a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, an ode to Indigenous mums, aunties, nans and girls.

Every young black woman will tell you about the myriad of black women that sculpted her into the woman she was always meant to become. The mothers and nans that raised them, the aunties that spoiled them, and the teachers who inspired them. The women who taught her how to be strong, independent, proud and kind all at once.

This is the core of what NAIDOC Week 2018: Because of Her, We Can! means to me; what all the incredible woman have done for me and what I hope I can go on to do for other young female Indigenous architecture students in the future.