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Bilya Marlee 

A new home for Indigenous Studies

The new Indigenous Studies building, Bilya Marlee, provides an exciting learning environment for students in the School of Indigenous Studies and at the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health. The building includes informal learning spaces, collaborative learning and spill-out spaces, and a variety of research and postgraduate office spaces.

The significance behind the name

Bilya, which symbolizes the flowing essence of a river, and Marlee, representing the graceful presence of the Black Swan.

Design Inspiration

The gardens are inspired by the noongar six seasons with trees and plants selected to ensure year-round coverage and vibrancy.

Noongar Six Seasons

  • Birak (December - January)
  • Bunuru (February - March)
  • Djeran (April - May)
  • Makuru (June - July)
  • Djilba (August - September)
  • Kambarang (October - November)

Artwork Swan

Danjoo Kaartdijiny (Learning Together) was created by Noongar artist Sharyn Egan.

This artwork embodies the strong symbol of the Black Swan watching over the nest. It symbolises the nurturing role of the School of Indigenous Studies for all students. The Swan’s wings expand in a protective embrace, providing a source of strength and belonging, a place to call home. The work incorporates connections to the Swan River and Whadjuk Nyoongar country, referencing the Bibbulmen Darling Range in the distance, and the creative spiritual presence of the Waagul below.

Handcrafted and stitched of natural sisal rope and thread, the artwork is a metaphor for the cultural threads woven through Aboriginal communities, connection to country and the continuum of past, present and future.

Marri Court and Deck area

The beautiful Marri trees which are between 40 to 60 years old is a great place to sit and relax or study. The trees are the original trees of the site and the building was designed around them to preserve and protect them. These Marri trees are home to many types of bird species and with this in mind we ensured that with any trees that were removed we would continue the journey by propagating seeds which were then grown into seedlings while the building work had commenced and later planted in the gardens. Luckily only two trees had to be removed. These two trees were not wasted but turned into usable items such as the boardroom table on level 1, the stylish kitchen table and the benches outside. 
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Colours in the building

The furniture colours were specifically chosen; reds taken from the beak colour of the black swan and greens and blues of the river.
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Building Access

Staff office hours are 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays)

If your building access is not working for any reason email [email protected] or contact Security Telephone (+61 8) 6488 3020



The building is located within the southern precinct of the University, directly south of Prescott Court and overlooking Matilda Bay creating a connection from the campus to the river.

A Short history of Indigenous Studies

The School of Indigenous Studies (formerly the Centre for Aboriginal Programmes) at The University of Western Australia began in 1988 in historic Shenton House, which is situated on Noongar land opposite Derbarl Yerrigan, the Matilda Bay section of the Swan River. 
This marked the beginning of a dynamic partnership between the University and the Aboriginal community. Western Australia’s oldest university, UWA, whilst steeped in western traditions of learning is also focused on the future and on national leadership in teaching and research. When it joined with the Aboriginal community to establish the Centre for Aboriginal Programmes, it invited Aboriginal people to patriciate in its traditions and its vision for the future. In return, The University of Western Australia has been enriched with an Aboriginal perspective. 
In 2002, the Centre for Aboriginal Programmes became the School of Indigenous Studies. The School’s Aboriginal Orientation Course has been offered since 1988, providing an alternative pathway into tertiary studies. The School has been at the forefront of education initiatives in Australia from the introduction of the first Pre-Law Course in 1994, and in 2014, the Advanced Diploma in Indigenous Legal Studies as pathways into postgraduate law. The School course offered in Albany, the transformative undergraduate major in Indigenous Knowledge, History and Heritage and, in participation with UWA’s Faculty of Arts, the Indigenous Australian heritage specialization in the Masters of Heritage Studies. 
The School of Indigenous Studies (SIS) provides a range of support services and recourses for Indigenous students on campus. Schools and community programmes to encourage Aboriginal people to undertake further study are also a very important part of the School of Indigenous Studies’ activities.
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