Creating culturally and socially appropriate aged-care environments for Indigenous Australia

Senior Associate Y E Ng is a University of Queensland PhD candidate currently undertaking critical research into how architecture can play a vital role in the lives of Australia’s Indigenous elderly. Y E’s research uses a cross-disciplinary case study approach to answer questions about the lived experiences of Indigenous residents’ cultural and social preferences and provide an understanding of their health needs; connection to Country, family, kin and community.

In Australia, the average life expectancy of Indigenous people is estimated to be eight years less than that of non-Indigenous people (AIHW, 2021). As a result of years of health disparity, Indigenous people access aged care a much younger age than non-Indigenous people. However, despite this there is a significant underrepresentation of ageing Indigenous people within the Australian aged-care system.



“The significant underrepresentation of ageing Indigenous people in the Australian aged-care system is the result of a lack of cultural understanding, culturally appropriate environments and cultural safety”

— Y E NG, AA Magazine, September 2021 (Issue 5)



There is currently limited research available on culturally appropriate design for ageing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living within aged-care facilities. Y E’s research will assist architects and organisations providing housing for aged care in making more informed design briefings, frameworks, and an environment that can sustain cross-cultural practices and activities for Indigenous people and their community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diverse and have different backgrounds, traditions and life experiences. The current design guidelines for residential aged care settings should be challenged with purposeful consultation that aims to capture a comprehensive understanding of the community it seeks to support. Y E’s research is currently revealing both varied and shared social and cultural spatial implications in residential aged care setting for Indigenous people.



Earlier this year, Y E was invited as a guest speaker for Design Speaks: Health Care / Health Design “Designing for Ageing” and joined Daniel Moore on Hearing Architecture Australia podcast about her experience during practice-based research designing for Nareeba Moopi Moopi Pa on North Stradbroke Island. Y E said:

“A series of community consultations were carried out before the design process commenced, to capture community concerns and cultural and social issues important to the residents. Our design process was led by co designing and listening to the needs of the community which avoided the need to redesign…”


The design of Nareeba Moopi Moopi Pa is underpinned by a deep community engagement process which informed the brief and was supported by research and evidence-based design around health and care environments.

Recently a team of our specialist health architects flexed their design thinking and applied their lessons learnt to imagine a hospice that embeds culturally appropriate design considerations for the Quandamooka people of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), Queensland. Free from a client brief the concept aimed to resolve First Nations people’s access to healthcare by applying cross-cultural design approaches through both planning and facility design.


Listen to Ye Ng talk to Daniel Moore From Hearing Architecture Australia here: