The Utopia Project is a joint initiative between the Urapuntja Aboriginal Corporation (Chaired by Rosalie Kunoth-Monks), and the Jack Thompson Foundation. The objective is to tackle three major factors which have lead to widespread poverty and welfare dependency in the Urapuntja Homelands at Utopia:
- Lack of skills
- Lack of income producing enterprise owned and driven by the community
- Lack of housing
The project provides the community with on-country, practical skills training and certification in construction, horticulture, business management, hospitality, and event management. Emphasis is given to:
- Hands-on, experiential training which is proven to more deeply engage community participants
- The use of local materials, the 'living ground', to ensure costs are minimal and practices are sustainable
- The staged development of commercial enterprise over three years to allow skills and training to develop progressively
At the heart of the project's success is a collaborative approach, whereby the community strongly engages in the decision-making, and management to ensure project outcomes satisfy their needs and fit within their cultural structures and values. Supporting the project is a network of educational institutions, government instrumentalities, and experienced organisations working to inform the project's development, and identify areas for research and policy change.
The Utopia Project's main focuses are the Four Bores Commercial Aquaponics, and Cultural Village. As they become sustainable and profitable these two enterprises will support the construction of local housing, and provide the platform from which other community-driven enterprises can develop.
A joint student-exchange between the Faculty of Architecture Design and Planning, and the Business School
The project was established by invitation from the indigenous Ampilawatja community of Utopia in the Northern Territory (Rosalie Kunoth Monks, Chair of the Urapuntja Corporation), and their project partner, the Jack Thompson Foundation.
Prof Michael Tawa from the Faculty of Architecture Design and Planning, and 20 architecture students visited the Utopia homelands in late 2010 to work with the Utopia community on the design of a new Cultural Village. The success of this collaboration sparked further University involvement. Dr Richard Seymour from the Business School and Prof Tawa are now valued members of the Utopia Project steering committee, and lead a cross-disciplinary student engagement to the community twice a year. The students' action-research addresses community identified needs, and the appropriate findings are collaboratively implemented. The Uranpuntja Corporation and Jack Thompson Foundation counts the University as one of its key contributors and collaborators on the project.