Students learnt about our rich building heritage at the Enduring Design Masterclass at the University of Queensland.

In an Australia first, university students have learnt the principles of First Nations and European timber-framing building practices side by side.

The Enduring Design Masterclass is a partnership between Prince's Trust Australia and the University of Queensland, designed to equip participants with a strong, hands-on grounding in the diverse traditional building cultures of Australia, and reconnect them with the enduring design principles that have stood the test of time.

Uncle Peter Hyde, an elder and traditional owner of the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people in Cairns led the build of a traditional Bulmba (rainforest dome shelter)

He worked with Cairns architect and UQ Architecture Adjunct Associate Professor Dr Shaneen Fantin to buildthe Bulmba, which is the wordfor shelter, camp or Country in Yidin language from far north Queensland.  

 Uncle Peter and Shaneen gathered traditional materials for this construction in and around Cairns. Students received hands-on experience learning aboutmaterials, orientation and construction.  Uncle Peter was welcomed onto Country in Brisbane by a local Yuggera elder.

“Doing it brought me back. I could see the students connecting to my family and history. They were watching me very closely. To see the bulmba with their own eyes was a big thing, big smiles” (Uncle Peter Hyde).

Peter Harwood of Timber Frames of Australia instructed students in the history and practice of timber framing, which culminated in the students’ construction of a timber framed mortice and tenon joint.


Using traditional tools and techniques, students were exposed to the rich history of timber construction and how its techniques and lessons can enrich our building practices today.

Prince’s Trust Australia Executive Director and Director, Sustainable Communities, Justin Hewitt, said, “The building traditions of our past offer us a rich resource to tap into and explore.  

“There are tried and proven lessons from our past, long since abandoned in the twentieth century, that we can rediscover, integrate with contemporary design and green technology, to help us build a more viable and sustainable future.”

In an opening address, he told the students the way we design our buildings, towns and cities matters.  

“Increasing social and environmental challenges are having a profound impact on our communities and the places that sustain them.  

“The built environment exacerbates the impacts of climate change, accounting for around 36% of worldwide energy use and 38% C02 emissions. Enduring design principles offer us a pathway towards building a more sustainable future.”

Prince’s Trust Australia Project Coordinator, Sustainable Communities, Alexander Dowthwaite, added, “Australia is privileged to possess a rich and diverse range of building traditions that can help us to build better places and communities today.

“This workshop joins a growing range of educational programs aimed at reconnecting with these traditions and restoring them to the heart of how we think about and engage with our built environment.

“Bringing together the different strands of Australia’s traditional timber building cultures, this workshop offers both practical insights and a deeper understanding into how we can draw on our rich cultural building traditions to create a more meaningful and sustainable built environment.”

School of Architecture Dean and Head Professor Cameron Bruhn said the Enduring Design Masterclass aimed to expose participants to traditional Australian knowledge around sustainability, design and building.

“Teaching traditional and local design principles to the next generation is critical to creating the climate-sensitive cities of the future,” Professor Bruhn said.

Prince’s Trust Australia and the University of Queensland are planning an exciting Enduring Design Masterclass program for 2022 – stay tuned!


Uncle Peter Hyde was born in Yarrabah in 1953. He is an elder and ceremonial leader of the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people. Peter grew up on Country at Buddabadoo, south of Yarrabah.  

He attended Cairns State High School in the 1970s and went to school by boat from Yarrabah to Cairns. He has worked onsugar cane and fruit farms, as a teacher’s aide, undertaking cultural heritage monitoring and liaison, as a volunteer to many community organisations and as acultural design consultant. Peter is passionate about his culture and educating others about Yidinji culture and Country.