Leaving behind a childhood ambition to enter politics, Jefa Greenaway discovered a love of design and architecture in his 20s. After obtaining a Diploma in Architectural Drafting at La Trobe, Jefa studied architecture at Melbourne University and went on to be the first Indigenous Architect to be registered in Victoria.
“Despite originally being a kid who found education a bit of a bore, I really evolved and grew during my years spent studying architecture,” says Jefa. “The Faculty had a strong studio environment which suited me and it was a time in which I lived and breathed the culture of architecture. I was deeply involved in the student club, the formation of SONA, and the Australian Institute of Architects. Alongside my studies, I worked part-time for an architect and worked on competitions with colleagues on the side.” Jefa’s passion for architecture and intense work ethic continued beyond graduation and has resulted in a highly successful and diverse career. Not only does he run his own practice Greenaway Architects, with wife and fellow alum Catherine Drosinos, he teaches at the Melbourne School of Design and runs Indigenous Architecture Victoria (IAV), the centre he founded in 2010 with Rueben Berg.
His Indigenous heritage is something which defines and drives Jefa’s professional life and his engagement with industry and community. IAV is a foci for this passion.
“One of the drivers to the establish IAV was the realisation that there are so few Indigenous people directly engaged in Architecture … We both felt a need for an organisation that could act as a conduit between the Indigenous Community and the Architecture profession.”
IAV maintains an advocacy role to promote the knowledge that each share, while also promoting the need for more Indigenous youth to consider Architecture as a profession. This is of immense value, Jefa believes, given Architecture’s critical connection to place, continuance of cultural practices, and the potential for architecture to speak to cultural expressions of identity.
“I feel the need to give back and offer my skills to the Aboriginal community, given the unique position I hold,” Jefa says. “I have a real sense of obligation to find ways to utilise the skill sets that I acquired through Architecture for the empowerment and advancement of Indigenous clients, organisations and the general community.”
This article was published in Atrium Magazine, Edition 25, 2014.