Sounds of silence a big tick in Gapuwiyak

In the small East Arnhem Land community of Gapuwiyak, stakeholders from across the community worked together to turn down the noise and turn up the colour in an exciting overhaul of the popular Sport and Recreation Hall.

The main hub of activities for the community, population of approximately 874, the problem involved a purely engineering solution of noise reduction by softening the hard surface of the shed walls of the hall and breaking up the surface.

East Arnhem Regional Council (EARC) was successful in gaining a $100 000 grant through the Department of Sport & Recreation’s Facility and Capital Equipment Program, alongside committing $50 000 of Council funds.

Using Council’s in-house design and construction expertise, Council consulted with community members presenting a design to the Local Authority utilising a clever system of parabolic curves that mesh by mirror reversing and inverting the panels.

EARC partnered with Miwatj Employment & Participation employing four local Yolngu workers, who alongside EARC’s Indigenous Technical Officer Trainee, were taught new skills and trained in construction methods and equipment handling, creating a local skilled workforce for future programs. Stage One of the project (acoustic insulation to the roof) was completed by a local Nhulunbuy business, with Stage Two (acoustic wall linings) carried out by the 90% local indigenous workforce, recording zero accidents, incidents and absences. This included all fabrication work of Stage 2 being carried out in a temporary joinery shop in the hall. 

Pre-works sound readings had levels ranging from 90-110 decibels. Post works readings have dropped dramatically, coming in between 70-85 decibels. These readings were taken during peak hours with over 40 kids playing basketball, music pumping and kids yelling, the results far greater than anticipated. And while the noise reduction was the main priority, the works have also shown to significantly improve natural lighting and greatly reduce the temperature in the hall with staff reporting a 75% reduction in air conditioning usage to achieve the same cooling as previously required. In some cases turning off the cooling all together because the kids are too cold!

Colours and design were agreed upon after extensive consultation with the Gapuwiyak Local Authority and Traditional Owners, the artwork to resemble the body of the bapi (snake) agreed upon. Students from the Gapuwiyak School were involved in transforming the hall, responsible for translating the design and artwork to the internal walls, creating a vibrant and fun space that the entire community is exceptionally proud of.

This project has ticked so many boxes and turned a tin shed into a comfortable, cool, quieter, practical, aesthetic building. Works were completed within budget and with extensive community involvement and participation. Not bad for a small, remote bush Council.