Aboriginal Environments Research Centre

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Dr Timothy O'Rourke

B. Architecture (Hons) UQ, PhD

Year Graduated: 

Currently Working: 
School of Architecture, The University of Queensland

Reconstructing a traditional Aboriginal dwelling


Tim graduated in 2012 and continues working in the UQ School of Architecture as a Lecturer in architectural technology and design. He is a registered architect with interests in timber construction, holding a portfolio of designs and timber joinery of demonstrable proficiency.

Thesis Title: 
The well-crafted mija: Traditional Aboriginal building skills and knowledge in the Australian Wet Tropics


In the tropical rainforests of north-eastern Queensland, nineteenth and early twentieth century photographers recorded a distinctive repertoire of Aboriginal dwellings. Compared with other records of Aboriginal dwellings across the continent, these buildings were distinguished by their relatively large domical forms and pallet of rainforest construction materials. Early in the twenty-first century, Girramay and Jirrbal people in the Tully–Murray river district reconstructed ten of their traditional dwellings, or mija, for the purpose of this thesis. An interdisciplinary approach to the study is used to trace the continuity and erosion of Girramay and Jirrbal building traditions across three centuries. A combination of research methods and techniques produced data that raised a number of questions about the evidence, meaning, and significance of the building traditions in the past and the present.