Perhaps Marnie Hughes Warrington began her chronicle of the rebuilding of ANU to capture the achievements of educators, administrators and engineers transforming the campus – no small thing in itself.
But her project has grown, exploring how construction shapes culture, design establishes an enduring ethos, how understanding environment allows ANU to settle into, rather than sit on, the landscape –how the natural world is always omnipresent, even in lakeside Canberra, where landscape is made by human hand.
But the ANU DVC digs to the bedrock of Australian history in her new essay – placing ANU in the context of culture and knowledge millennia older than its own origins, recounting what Indigenous Australians have explained about the land the university now occupies.
“Last week, the four local Indigenous groups gifted the university the name Kambri to describe the centre of campus. There has been no greater privilege in my working life than to have been there at the moment that they offered this gift for the first time. It was the straightforward, matter of fact act of four elder teachers: you impart knowledge in the hope that the people who receive it will learn from it. …
When people write about, or give lectures on the meaning of a university, they inevitably turn to sources like that of Cardinal Newman and talk about free enquiry and the transmission of ideas through alumni. These are good ideas, but in the gift of Kambri we see the crucial role of country in what makes a university a university.”
Hughes-Warrington is writing way more a construction narratives