Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley

Published 3 March 2023

Written By Joel Benichou

‘Anyone still thinking that terra nullius describes pre-colonial Australia should read this book. There are words and images here that should stop Australians in their tracks. Your country is a rich one, Australia, please learn her story, learn to love her.’
– Bruce Pascoe

"Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia" is an award winning book written by Paul Memmott, a professor of anthropology and director of the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre at the University of Queensland, and co-authors Michael Connolly and Stephen Anstice. The book explores the traditional architecture of Indigenous Australians and the ways in which their homes, shelters, and buildings reflect their deep connection to the land and the natural world.

The book is divided into three main sections, each focused on a different type of structure: the gunyah, the goondie, and the wurley. These three structures represent some of the most common types of dwellings used by Aboriginal peoples throughout Australia, and each one is uniquely suited to its particular environment.

The gunyah, for example, is a shelter made from bark, branches, and other natural materials that is commonly used by Indigenous peoples in the coastal regions of eastern Australia. The authors describe the various types of gunyahs used by different groups, and discuss the important role these structures play in the cultural traditions of their communities.

The goondie, on the other hand, is a more substantial structure made from stone, mud, and other materials. It is often used by Indigenous peoples in arid regions of the country, where the harsh climate and lack of vegetation make it difficult to construct more temporary shelters. The authors describe the intricate designs and construction techniques used to build goondies, and explain how these structures reflect the deep connection between Aboriginal peoples and the land.

The wurley is a circular or oval-shaped structure made from branches, leaves, and other natural materials. It is commonly used by Indigenous peoples in the interior regions of the country, where the climate is milder and there is more vegetation. The authors discuss the various types of wurleys used by different groups, and explain how these structures are used for a wide range of purposes, from temporary shelters to more permanent homes.

Throughout the book, the authors draw on a wide range of sources and features rare archival imagery and historical records, archaeological evidence, and interviews with Indigenous peoples. They provide detailed descriptions and illustrations of each type of structure, as well as insights into the cultural and spiritual significance of these buildings for Aboriginal peoples.

"Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley" is a fascinating and informative book that sheds light on the rich and varied architectural traditions of Indigenous Australians. The authors provide a wealth of information about the construction techniques, materials, and cultural significance of each type of structure, and their writing is accessible and engaging throughout. The book is sure to be of interest to anyone interested in the history and culture of Indigenous Australians, as well as to those interested in architecture and design more broadly.

We offer deep respect to the traditional custodians of this land and honour their ancestors who have nurtured and cared for this country for thousands of years. We pay homage to the living cultures, languages, and knowledge systems of the Noongar, Wurundjeri and all Indigenous Australian peoples.