Professor Paul Memmott

Professor in Architecture

School of Architecture
Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Affiliate Academic

Institute for Social Science Research
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
p.memmott@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 53660

Overview

Professor Paul Memmott is an anthropologist and architect and for some decades has been the Director of the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre (AERC) at the University of Queensland (School of Architecture and Institute for Social Science Research). The AERC has provided an applied research focus on a range of topics in relation to Indigenous populations, including institutional architecture, vernacular architecture, housing, crowding, governance, well-being, homelessness, family violence and social planning for communities.

Paul was the first full-time architectural-anthropological consultant in Australia, being principal of a research consultancy practice in Aboriginal projects during 1980 to 2008. His research interests encompass Aboriginal sustainable housing and settlement design, Aboriginal access to institutional architecture, Indigenous constructs of place and cultural heritage, vernacular architecture, social planning in Indigenous communities, cultural change and architectural anthropology. In recent years, Memmott has directed the Indigenous Design Place initiative which draws on inter-disciplinary researchers across from UQ faculties and engages with Indigenous clients and personnel.

Paul’s scholarly research output includes over 300 publications (including 11 books and monographs), 215 applied research reports and 40 competitive grants. He has supervised over 50 postgraduate and honours students and has won a number of prestigious teaching awards in Indigenous education (including an Australian Award for University Teaching – AAUT). One of his books, titled 'Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley: Aboriginal Architecture of Australia', received three national book awards in 2008, including the prestigious Stanner Award from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

Paul also has extensive professional anthropological experience in Aboriginal land rights claims, Native Title claims and associated court work since 1980. He has presented evidence and been examined in a variety of Australian courts as an expert witness on a cross-section of Indigenous issues, in addition to the Native Title work.

Awards

  • AIA Neville Quarry Award, 2015
  • Best Exhibit, Australian Architectural Exhibit, Venice Biennale 2018 (Team led by Baracco + Wright Architects, Melbourne)

Memberships

  • Life Member, Academy of Social Sciences (Australia)
  • Life Fellow, Australian Institute of Architects
  • Fellow, Australian Anthropological Society

Research Interests

  • Cross-cultural Study of the Ethno-environmental Relations of Indigenous Peoples
    Five strands of research have emerged from my early career foundations that shape my research interests. (1) Vernacular Architecture and Material Culture: I have studied traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander shelters, houses and settlements for 40 years. (2) Aboriginal housing and institutional architecture: Australian Aboriginal housing and settlement research with over 50 publications in this field. (3) Indigenous homelessness: I have carried out empirical research studies on Indigenous homelessness in Australia, with some 16 publications in this field. (4) Indigenous family violence: In this difficult field I have researched the phenomenon and authored a national overview report for the Australian Government, “Violence in Indigenous Australia” that formulated a national definition of Indigenous family violence and integrated causal explanations. (5) Geography of place and cultural landscapes: I have been engaged in research for Aboriginal land claims and native title claims for over 30 years; as well as carrying out sacred site recording for Cultural Heritage agencies. My knowledge of Aboriginal geography has been applied to urban planning research and I have been involved in land and sea management issues with Aboriginal people both in terms of assisting groups to develop management plans, and to protect cultural heritage sites.

Research Impacts

Five fields of applied research impacts in national and international fora:

(1) Vernacular Architecture and Material Culture

(2) Aboriginal Housing and Institutional Architecture

(3) Geography of place and cultural landscapes

(4) Indigenous homelessness and

5) Indigenous family violence.

In varied academic, industry and government sectors he presented applied and policy related research. Since 2008, he was an invited guest speaker at 20 conferences, and another 15 invited keynote addresses influencing government policy change, including Commonwealth ministerial and standing committees and policy forums, professional and industry symposiums, ‘think-tanks’ and ‘lock-ups’, public lectures, gallery openings and book launches.

The inter-disciplinary nature of his work and its indigenous-specific field, he is a specialist referee for national and international journals in architecture, urban policy, anthropology, archaeology, economics, demography, housing and medicine.

In addition to his research publications (including 230 journal papers, 10 books and monographs), I was commissioned to write 215 applied research reports and 36 competitive grants (incl. as Team Leader on two ARC Discovery).

Qualifications

  • Fellow, Australian Anthropological Society
  • Fellow, Royal Australian Institute of Architects
  • Bachelor of Architecture (Hons), The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Postgraduate proposals that examine the ways in which Indigenous people relate to and value significant places and cultural landscapes can be supervised. Such topics might extend into human geography, urban design, urban history, landscape architecture, town planning or cultural heritage. Topics may also relate to how buildings are but positioned into and expressed in this cultural landscape.

  • Research topics can be supervised in relation to forms of spatial behaviours of Indigenous groups including in relation to customary land tenure, territoriality, setting theory, crowding and privacy cognitive space and people-environment transactional theory.

  • Postgraduate proposals that address Indigenous architectural problems can be supervised. Such proposals might apply to Indigenous housing design, procurement, policy or management. Proposals might also include post-occupancy evaluation. Non-housing topics might embrace the architectural needs of Indigenous people in correctional centres, courts, hospitals, schools or clinics. Another research area embraces Indigenous cultural centres and museums.

    Other research topics on Indigenous architectural issues may relate to theories on customary behaviours, cultural change, cultural identity, material culture, architectural meaning and the role of tradition. Topics may pertain to either architect-designed buildings or vernacular buildings.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book

Book Chapter

  • Memmott, Paul (2022). Expert opinion: Paul Memmott on approaches to designing housing for Aboriginal populations. Homelessness and the built environment: designing for unhoused persons. (pp. 237-240) edited by Pable, Jill, McLane, Yelena and Trujillo, Lauren. New York, NY United States: Routledge.

  • Grant, Elizabeth and Memmott, Paul (2021). Indigenous content in Australian architecture schools: Six drivers of demonstrating the need for pedagogical change and teaching responses. Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Yurlendj-nganjin. (pp. 353-380) edited by David Jones and Darryl Low Choy. Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • Miksic, John, Memmott, Paul and Brown, Deidre (2019). Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania, 1400–1780. Sir Banister Fletcher's Global History of Architecture. (pp. 406-422) edited by Murray Fraser and Catherine Gregg. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury.

  • Memmott, Paul (2018). The re-invention of the ‘Behaviour Setting’ in the new indigenous architecture. The Handbook of Contemporary Indigenous Architecture. (pp. 831-868) edited by Elizabeth Grant, Kelly Greenop, Albert L. Refiti and Daniel J. Glenn. Singapore: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-981-10-6904-8_31

  • Kreutz, Angela and Memmott, Paul (2017). Architectural anthropology: developing a methodological framework for Indigenous wellbeing. Routledge Handbook of Environmental Anthropology. (pp. 90-104) edited by Helen Kopnina and Eleanor Shoreman-Ouimet. Abbingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315768946

  • Memmott, Paul C. and Bond, Alexander (2017). Early Aboriginal society. Water futures: an integrated water and flood management plan for enhancing liveability in South East Queensland. (pp. 15-16) edited by James Davidson and Sam Bowstead. South Brisbane, QLD, Australia: James Davidson Architect.

  • Memmott, Paul, Martin, Darren and Amiralian, Nasim (2017). Nanotechnology and the Dreamtime knowledge of spinifex grass. Green composites. (pp. 181-198) edited by Caroline Baillie and Randika Jayasinghe. Duxford, United Kingdom: Woodhead Publishing. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-08-100783-9.00008-3

  • Memmott, Paul (2017). Spinifex structures in Central Australia. HABITAT: vernacular architecture for a changing planet. (pp. 556-559) edited by Sandra Piesik. London, United Kingdom: Thames and Hudson.

  • Memmott, Paul, Round, Erich, Rosendahl, Daniel and Ulm, Sean (2016). Fission, fusion and syncretism: linguistic and environmental changes amongst the Tangkic people of the southern Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Australia. Land and language in Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf Country. (pp. 105-136) edited by Jean-Christophe Verstraete and Hafner, Diane. Philadelphia, United States: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/clu.18.06mem

  • Memmott, Paul and Nash, Daphne (2016). Indigenous homelessness: Australian context. Indigenous Homelessness: Perspectives from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. (pp. 213-220) edited by Evelyn J. Peters and Julia Christensen. Winnipeg, Canada: University of Manitoba Press.

  • Memmott, Paul and Nash, Daphne (2016). Looking through the service lens: case studies in Indigenous homelessness in two regional Australian towns. Indigenous Homelessness: Perspectives from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. (pp. 245-269) edited by Evelyn J. Peters and Julia Christensen. Winnipeg, Canada: University of Manitoba Press.

  • Memmott, Paul (2016). Reviving culture on Mornington Island. Serious Whitefella Stuff: When solutions became the problem in Australian Indigenous Affairs. (pp. 73-101) edited by Mark Moran. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Press.

  • Greenop, Kelly and Memmott, Paul (2016). We are good-hearted people, we like to share: definitional dilemmas of crowding and homelessness in urban indigenous Australia. Indigenous Homelessness: Perspectives from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. (pp. 270-299) edited by Evelyn J. Peters and Julia Christensen. Winnipeg, Canada: University of Manitoba Press.

  • Memmott, Paul, Nash, Daphne and Passi, Charles (2015). Cultural Relativism and Indigenous Family Violence. Preventing violence in Australia: policy, practice and solutions. (pp. 164-185) edited by Andrew Day and Ephrem Fernandez. Annandale, NSW Austraila: Federation Press.

  • Memmott, Paul and Nash, Daphne (2014). Indigenous homelessness. Homelessness in Australia, an introduction. (pp. 155-178) edited by Chris Chamberlain, Guy Johnson and Catherine Robinson. Sydney, NSW, Australia: NewSouth Publishing.

  • Memmott, Paul (2014). Inside the remote-area Aboriginal house. Perspectives on Social Sustainability and Interior Architecture: Life from the Inside. (pp. 93-99) edited by Dianne Smith, Marina Lommerse and Priya Metcalfe. Singapore: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-981-4585-39-2_7

  • Greenop,Kelly and Memmott, Paul (2013). Aboriginal identity and place in the intercultural settings of metropolitan Australia. Indigenous in the city: contemporary identities and cultural innovation. (pp. 256-281) edited by Evelyn Peters and Chris Anderson. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press.

  • Trigger, David, Martin, David, Memmott, Paul, Winn, Phllip, Burke, Paul, Peterson, Nicolas, Veth, Peter, Holcombe, Sarah and Palmer, Kingsley (2013). Forensic social anthropology. Expert Evidence: Law, Practice, Procedure and Advocacy. (pp. 36.51-36.9058) edited by Ian R. Freckelton and Hugh Selby. Pyrmont, NSW, Australia: Thomson Reuters.

  • Memmott, Paul and Blackwood, Peter (2013). Managing mixed Indigenous land titles: Cape York case studies. Living with native title: the experiences of registered native title corporations. (pp. 217-251) edited by Toni Bauman, Lisa M. Strelein and Jessica K. Weir. Canberra, ACT, Australia: AIATSIS Research Publications (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies).

  • Memmott, Paul (2012). Aboriginal architecture. Encyclopedia of Australian architecture. (pp. 1-4) edited by Philip Goad and Julie Willis. Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Cambridge University Press.

  • Memmott, P. and Chambers, C. (2012). Homeless people: Indigenous/Aboriginal. International encyclopedia of housing and home. (pp. 97-103) edited by Lorna Fox O'Mahony, Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Robyn Dowling and Susan J. Smith. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-08-047163-1.00335-0

  • Memmott, Paul (2012). Lanley, Larry (1927-1981). Australian Dictionary of Biography. (pp. xx-xx) edited by Melanie Nolan and Paul Arthur. Carlton, VIC, Australia: Melbourne University Press.

  • Memmott, Paul (2012). Mission Architecture.

  • Memmott, Paul, Greenop, Kelly, Clarke, Andrew, Go-Sam, Carroll, Birdsall-Jones, Christina, Harvey-Jones, William, Corunna, Vanessa and Western, Mark (2012). NATSISS crowding data: what does it assume and how can we challenge the orthodoxy?. Survey Analysis for Indigenous Policy in Australia: Social Science Perspectives. (pp. 241-279) edited by Boyd Hunter and Nicholas Biddle. Canberra, Australia: ANU E Press.

  • Memmott, Paul (2012). On Generating Culturally Sustainable Enterprises and Demand-Responsive Services in Remote Aboriginal Settings: A case study from north-west Queensland. Indigenous participation in Australian economies II : Historical engagements and current enterprises. (pp. 243-260) edited by Natasha Fijn, Ian Keen, Christopher Lloyd and Michael Pickering. Canberra A.C.T., Australia: ANU E Press.

  • Memmott, Paul (2012). Roughsey, Dick (Goobalathaldin) 1920-1985. Australian Dictionary of Biography. (pp. xx-xx) edited by Melanie Nolan and Paul Arthur. Carlton, VIC, Australia: Melbourne University Press.

  • Memmott, Paul (2012). Torres Strait Island Architecture.

  • Memmott, Paul (2011). Inside the remote-area Aboriginal house. Life from the inside : Perspectives on social sustainability & interior architecture. (pp. 124-131) edited by Dianne Joy Smith, Marina Lommerse and Priya Metcalfe. Como, W.A., Australia: Paper and Pencil.

  • Memmott, Paul (2011). Modelling the continuity of Aboriginal Law in urban native tide claims: A practice example. Unsettling anthropology: The demands of native title on worn concepts and changing lives. (pp. 122-141) edited by Toni Bauman and Gaynor Macdonald. Australia: AIATSIS.

  • Roughsey, Labumore Elsie, Memmott, Paul and Watson, Christine (2009). Gununa is the land of my dreams that's rich in culture with its background. Hibiscus & Ti-Tree: Women in Queensland. (pp. 19-29) edited by Carole Ferrier and Deborah Jordan. St Lucia, Qld: Hecate Press.

  • Memmott, Paul (2009). On the kindness of Aboriginal country, camp and shelter. Shelter: On Kindness. (pp. 13-16) edited by Suzanne Davies. Melbourne, Australia: RMIT Gallery.

  • Memmott, Paul (2009). On the kindness of Aboriginal country, camp and shelter. Shelter: On Kindness. (pp. 16-19) edited by Davies, Suzanne. Melbourne, Australia: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Gallery.

  • O'Rourke, Timothy and Memmott, Paul C. (2009). Sustaining Indigenous cultural tourism: Aboriginal pathways, cultural centres and dwellings in the Queensland wet tropics. Indigenous/Aboriginal tourism research in Australia (2000-2008): Industry lessons and future research needs. (pp. 78-79) edited by Pascal Tremblay, Aggie Wegner and Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism.. Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia: CRC for Sustainable Tourism.

  • Memmott, Paul C. and MCulloch, Susan (2008). At the Heart of Everything is the Land. The Heart of Everything: The Art and Artists of Mornington and Bentinck Islands. (pp. 12-15) edited by Nicholas Evans, Louise Martin-Chew and Paul Memmott. Fitzory, Vic.: McCulloch and McCulloch Australian Art Books.

  • Memmott, Paul C. (2008). Origins of the contemporary art movement. The Heart of Everything: The Art and Artists of Mornington and Bentinck Islands. (pp. 16-30) edited by Nicholas Evans, Louise Martin-Chew and Paul Memmott. Fitzroy: McCulloch and McCulloch Australian Art Books.

  • Memmott, Paul, Robins, Richard and Stock, Errol (2008). What exactly is a fish trap? Methodological issues for the study of Aboriginal intertidal rock-wall fish traps, Wellesley Islands region, Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Comparative island archaeologies. (pp. 47-67) edited by James Connolly and Matthew Campbell. Oxford, U.K.: Archaeopress.

  • Memmott, Paul, Blackwood, Peter and McDougall, Scott (2007). A Regional Approach to Managing Aboriginal Land Title on Cape York. Customary Land Tenure and Registration in Australia and Papua New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives. (pp. 273-297) edited by J. F. Weiner and K. Glaskin. Canberra, Australia: ANU E Press.

  • O'Rourke, Tim and Memmott, Paul (2007). Constructing cultural tourism opportunities in the Queensland wet tropics: Dyirbalngan campsites and dwellings. Striving for Sustainability: Case Studies in Indigenous Tourism. (pp. 371-402) edited by J. Buultjens and D. Fuller. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University Press.

  • Grant, Elizabeth and Memmott, Paul C. (2007). Forty years of Aboriginal housing, public and community housing in South Australia from 1967 to 2007. Reflections: 40 years on from the 1967 Referendum. (pp. 79-96) edited by Gillespie, N.. Adelaide: Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc..

  • Memmott, Paul C. and Go-Sam, Carroll (2007). Spinifex houses of the Western Desert. Gunyah, goondie & wurley: The Aboriginal architecture of Australia. (pp. 208-231) edited by Paul C. Memmott. St Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Qld Press.

  • Greenop, Kelly and Memmott, Paul (2007). Urban Aboriginal Place Values In Australian Metropolitan Cities: The Case Study Of Brisbane. Past Matters: Heritage and Planning History - Case Study from the Pacific Rim. (pp. 213-245) edited by Caroline Miller and Michael Roche. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press.

  • Memmott, Paul C. (2006). Who are the Kaiadilt people, where do they come from, and where does their art come from?. The Bentinck Project. (pp. 23-26) Brisbane, QLD, Australia: Woolloongabba Art Gallery.

  • Memmott, P. C. (2005). Arrernte increase ceremonies (Central Australia). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. (pp. 106-107) edited by Taylor, B., Kaplan and J.. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Continuum.

  • Memmott, Paul and Meltzer, Anne (2005). Modelling Social Capital in a Remote Australian Indigenous Community. A Dynamic Balance: Social Capital & Sustainable Community Development. (pp. 105-126) edited by Ann Dale and Jenny Onyx. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver: UBC Press.

  • Memmott, P. C. (2005). Rainbow serpent (North Wellesley Islands, Australia). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. (pp. 1336-1337) edited by Taylor, B., Kaplan and J.. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Continuum.

  • Memmott, Paul C. and Fantin, Shaneen (2005). The study of indigenous ethno-architecture in Australia. Donald Thomson: the man and scholar. (pp. 185-210) edited by B. Rigsby and N. Peterson. Canberra, ACT, Australia: The Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

  • Fantin, S. R. and Memmott, P. C. (2005). Yolngu ceremonial Architecture (Australia). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. (pp. 1786-1787) edited by Taylor, B., Kaplan and J.. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Continuum.

  • Memmott, Paul (2003). Customary Aboriginal behaviour patterns and housing design. TAKE 2: housing design in Indigenous Australia. (pp. 26-39) edited by Paul Memmott and Catherine Chambers. Canberra, ACT Australia: The Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

  • Memmott, Paul and Go-Sam, Carroll (2003). Synthesizing indigenous housing paradigms: an introduction to Take 2. TAKE 2: Housing design in indigenous Australia. (pp. 12-17) edited by P. Memmott and C. Chambers. Canberra, ACT Australia: The Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

  • Memmott, P. C. and Go-Sam, C. (2000). Aboriginal architecture. The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture. (pp. 405-413) edited by Kleinert, S. and Neale, M.. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

  • Memmott, P. C. (2000). Establishing the factual basis for Native Title in accordance with the amended Native Title Act. Native title in perspective: Selected papers from the Native Title Research Unit, 1998-2000. (pp. 87-100) edited by L. Strelein and K. Muir. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.

  • Memmott, P. C. (2000). The way it was: Customary camps and houses in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. Settlement: A History of Australian Indigenous Housing. (pp. 15-39) edited by P. Read. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.

  • Memmott, P. C. (1999). Preface. Houses and Humpies. (pp. vii-ix) edited by The Surat Aboriginal Family Oral History Group. Surat, Qld: Surat Aboriginal Family History Group.

  • Memmott, Paul and Trigger, David S. (1998). Marine tenure in the Wellesley Islands region, Gulf of Carpentaria. Customary marine tenure in Australia. (pp. 109-124) edited by Bruce Rigsby and Nicholas Peterson. Sydney, NSW, Australia: Oceania Publications.

  • Memmott, P.C (1998). Tracking soakages in the Wakaya Desert with Yellowshirt. Take power, like this old man here: An anthology of writings celebrating twenty years of land rights in Central Australia, 1977-1997. (pp. 205-211) Alice Springs, NT, Australia: IAD Press.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Edited Outputs

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Postgraduate proposals that examine the ways in which Indigenous people relate to and value significant places and cultural landscapes can be supervised. Such topics might extend into human geography, urban design, urban history, landscape architecture, town planning or cultural heritage. Topics may also relate to how buildings are but positioned into and expressed in this cultural landscape.

  • Research topics can be supervised in relation to forms of spatial behaviours of Indigenous groups including in relation to customary land tenure, territoriality, setting theory, crowding and privacy cognitive space and people-environment transactional theory.

  • Postgraduate proposals that address Indigenous architectural problems can be supervised. Such proposals might apply to Indigenous housing design, procurement, policy or management. Proposals might also include post-occupancy evaluation. Non-housing topics might embrace the architectural needs of Indigenous people in correctional centres, courts, hospitals, schools or clinics. Another research area embraces Indigenous cultural centres and museums.

    Other research topics on Indigenous architectural issues may relate to theories on customary behaviours, cultural change, cultural identity, material culture, architectural meaning and the role of tradition. Topics may pertain to either architect-designed buildings or vernacular buildings.

  • I was the Team Leader for a research project on Spinifex which was titled, ‘Towards Novel Biomimetic Building Materials: Evaluating Aboriginal and Western Scientific Knowledge of Spinifex Grasses’, 2008-2013, which was the first multi-disciplinary study of spinifex in Australia with three key original contributions. PhD scholars are welcomed who can extend this research into bio-architectural and bio-material applications.

    1. New Applications of Aboriginal knowledge: Our partnership is with the Myuma Group who are the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the Camooweal/Upper Georgina River basin, and who contributed their environmental steward-ship and ethics, their regional Aboriginal geographic knowledge, and human and infrastructure resources. Our project, through a series of published papers and culminating in a museum exhibition, drew together all of the Aboriginal knowledge on spinifex and its uses from the diverse ethnographic sources. We then applied this ethnographic knowledge to broader exploratory investigation of spinifex properties.

    2. New plant knowledge: Using electron-microscopy we prepared cross-sections of grass leaves from all 69 species in the Triodia genus. Pronounced differences in leaf anatomy generated a division into 42 ‘hard’ species with stronger fibres, and 27 ‘soft’ species with weaker fibres but having a resin yielding capacity. Hard spinifex species appear to have double the photosynthetic capacity of soft species with stomata located on both the outer and inner surfaces of the folded leaves, as well as larger bundles of fibres for extra rigidity. Soft species have photosynthetic features restricted to inside of leaf only, but have resin secreting cells. Evolutionary modeling of species diversification during the Miocene and Pliocene climate changes has been developed using DNA analysis. We also addressed the different modes of spinifex reproduction and propagation (seeds, runners, re-sprouts), including the ecological relevance of wildfires. We operated on the premise that spinifex materials would have a unique morphology owing to the fact that Triodia is a xerophyte (arid-area plant requiring little water) which could be expected to display different properties to mesic plant species (moderate water content) from which most biomaterials are derived.

    3. New material inventions: Our bio-engineering team (material engineers, chemists, botanists, architects, Aboriginal consultants) developed techniques for separating plant fibres and resin, and profiled spinifex resin chemistry (a mixture of volatile and nonvolatile terpenoid and secondary compounds: belonging to the thermoplastic class of bio-polymers). Within a low-tech to high-tech spectrum of possible applications, a variety of products were researched ranging from shade roofs, evaporative cooling walls, spinifex reinforced-earth walls and slabs, spinifex insulation batts (all at the low-tech end), to nanowhisker paper, resin to replace urea formaldehyde, coatings that may have anti-termite and ultra-violet screening capacities, bio-composite materials of fibre and resin, polymer derivatives and nano-fibrillated spinifex cellulose (patented) (at the high-tech end). Although few, if any plant resins have been used to generate commercial polymers, our research indicates potential for both Triodia resin and fibres as potential building blocks for renewable polymers and/or composite materials. One particular interest is the exudation cycle of the resin on the surface of the soft spinifex species and whether it functions to protect against excessive moisture loss from its spongy storage mass, whilst simultaneously allowing an osmotic process of gas exchange for photosynthesis; an ongoing subject of one of our PhD students.