Rammed Earth Health Hub

Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS), based in Newman WA is a community run health organisation with a local Aboriginal board for the remote Martu communities. Martu were some of the last Aboriginal people to have first contact with non-Aboriginal people and are some of the most traditional communities in Australia resulting in a close connection to culture and country.

The project is a 950m2 primary health care hub with a focus on promoting health and wellbeing in a culturally appropriate way, for the first time in Newman. It will accommodate clinical / treatment facilities for allied health and visiting specialists, child & maternal health, dental, dialysis and the PAMS head office.

This health provision will combine with a culturally appropriate spaces that promote wellness. It will create a place that Aboriginal people enjoy visiting, resulting in greater presentation rates and reducing the need to travel 1200km to Perth.

Project cost AUD$6 million.

Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services are important for addressing the significant health and social issues that disproportionately affect Aboriginal people. The primary cause is the loss and destruction of culture and community. Compounded by extremely poor infrastructure unable to provide adequate services and limits Medicare revenue which is linked to presentation rates.

This project is an important component of the strategic plan to broaden PAMS service provision. It places community at the centre of health delivery whilst providing modern facilities and additional clinical space focused on the acute health issues. The strategic plan is focused on community and inclusion with the aim of increasing presentation rates to improve preventative health.

Meaningful engagement with the community facilitated a design that is culturally appropriate and will engender ownership. In doing so the facility will become the physical embodiment of the community model of care placing health and wellness at the centre of community.  This, combined with a broader health provision, will increase presentation rates which is key to supporting preventative health, closing the gap between Aboriginal / non-Aboriginal Australians, and reducing the need for the community to leave country. Being forced to leave country has a significant negative effect on wellness.

Newman is a purpose-built mining town that has almost no public buildings or realms that are for Aboriginal people. There is a lack of connection and ownership for Aboriginal people. By responding to the community and embodying its history and culture the building will serve as a statement of a more positive future.

The building will be clad in local rammed earth and incorporate art into its facade and entry gates. These will both integrate the building with culture and landscape. The art screens will imbue a sense of pride in the Aboriginal community by projecting their incredible art and culture into the public realm. At night they will serve as a beacon facing into Newman.  Their incorporation enables the building to pay respect to elders, artists and culture, enriching the community.

For the first time in Newman a public park will be created specifically for Aboriginal people. Local vegetation will be solely used incorporating medicinal, and bush tucker plants. Elements for children play and community gathering will also be incorporated. The park and public realm in front of the building will not be fenced and will be open for all to access.

Clinical spaces prefabricated in Perth will enable the same quality and standards to be achieved as any other health facility in Australia. Modulation enables future internal reconfiguration of rooms. The waiting room, courtyard and external spaces will serve as the main community spaces. Ongoing programs of engagement will facilitate the customisation and evolution of these spaces.

Materials and finishes have been carefully selected to be robust and low maintenance. Internally walls are impact resistant, floors vinyl and ceilings Colorbond Panel Rib.  The floor colour has been selected to mask the inevitable discolouration due to the mining dust. Taps and hydraulic fittings have been selected to address the calcium rich bore water. The internal pallet has been kept neutral in response to the community’s desire to display their art and for this to change over time.

The building will be clad in rammed earth with steel windows, security screens and roofing. These selections will combine to produce a building that needs minimum maintenance in a location where a tradesperson may need to travel 1200km from Perth.

Likewise, telehealth will mitigate the need for patient travel to Perth.

The community centered design approach identified important requirements which are central to creating a place that is compassionate and therapeutic which supports healing & recovery.  These are:

  • Quality Clinical Space: prefabricated to enable the highest quality in the remotest of locations.
  • Health Provision: broadened to support visiting specialists and allied health professionals, increasing the reach and quality of health delivery.
  • Landscaping: highly integrated with the courtyard forming the fulcrum of the building serving as outdoor waiting, a community space and filtering natural light into the building. For the first time a public park for Aboriginal people will be created.
  • Local Art: will filter light in during the day and act as a beacon into the community at night.
  • Light Filled Spaces: will permeate the building. This is an especially important element for Aboriginal people who can feel claustrophobic in buildings.
  • Robust Design: The careful selection of materials, systems, fixtures and fitting will ensure that the builds are low maintenance and robust. This will ensure the above benefits are ongoing and enduring.

Significant sustainability measures have been integrated into the design. The use of modular construction and local rammed earth cladding will greatly reduce the embodied energy and waste during construction. Also reducing site visits of contractors and material deliveries from Perth 1200km away.

The rammed earth cladding with provide a high level of thermal insulation which will combine with the ventilated roof, drawing cooler air from the densely landscaped courtyard. A 100Kw solar array on the roof will provide 100% of the buildings average power usage.

Landscaping has been selected to minimize water use.

Newman, Western Australia

Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service

Funding body: Australian Department of Health, Client: Robby Chibawe, CEO Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service, Client Project Managers: Guy Docker, Matthew Sanderson, Source Art Centre: Martumili Art Centre, Landscape Architect: Conrad Gargett, Structural / Building Services: Prompt Engineering, Civil Engineer: Stellen Consulting, QS: QS Services, Traffic Engineering: KCTT , Compliance: Tecon, Contractors: Devlyn, Solar Panels: Geniux, Visualisation Sketches: Andrew Andersons