A new Griffith University and Tweed Shire Council partnership is set to support emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander town planners.

Aspiring First Nations town planners can apply to take part in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Town Planner Development Program, which offers financial and cultural support, and the opportunity to work as a planner throughout their degree.

Director of Griffith University’s Cities Research Institute, Professor Paul Burton, said it was important to have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people joining the planning profession and progressing to leadership roles.

“The insights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can provide and the values they bring to urban and regional planning are incredibly important,” Professor Burton said.

“With more than 60,000 years of knowledge and experience of managing the Australian landscape, it is essential we encourage and support more First Nations planners to join the profession, especially if we want to be better placed to plan for more sustainable and resilient communities.”

The program will support one Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student enrolled in the Bachelor of Urban Planning (Honours) at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus, with a scholarship that supports tuition fees.

For up to four years during their studies, they will also receive paid employment for the equivalent of one day a week with the Tweed Shire Council’s Planning and Regulation Division, based in Murwillumbah.

Professor Paul Burton.

“From day one, you will be immersed in the world of planning practice at Tweed while you develop your theoretical and critical skills at Griffith,” Professor Burton said.

“This will equip you with the knowledge, skills and experience to help make our region a great place to live, work and play.”

Tweed Shire Council’s Director of Planning and Regulation, Vincent Connell, said the program aims to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander town planners locally and Australia-wide by offering a model for other universities and councils.

“First Nations people are under-represented in town planning across the country,” Mr Connell said.

“Councils are major employers of town planners in cities and regions throughout Australia — if we work with universities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, we can redress this situation.

“A more diverse profession is a stronger and more effective profession.”

Applications are open until 12pm 13 May 2022.