College of New Caledonia

CNCThe transition from rural and remote communities to an urban environment can be a stressful experience for Aboriginal college students.  In response to the high drop-out rate, the College of New Caledonia asked Kim Walker to test an Aboriginal housing concept and explore ideas with a group of Aboriginal college students.

Kim designed and led a multi-day charette style workshop over the course of four days.  The workshop began with an informal dinner and group building session.  We shared our skills and backgrounds, and exchanged stories about experiences related moving to attend college.  One of the special topics was the things we miss or value about home.

The next day the students began to explore the relative merits of different student housing models. We ended the day with a neighbourhood site tour to identify potentially suitable places and housing styles.  Follow-up meetings were held to refine ideas and hold discussions with other Aboriginal college students.  Kim then delivered a report to the College with seven key elements for a new preferred housing model:

  • Neighbourhood features and 10 potential locations,
  • Important physical characteristics for a new residence,
  • A phased approach to accommodate single students and families,
  • House rules that would maintain a safe and healthy living environment,
  • Space for Aboriginal cultural activities,
  • Culturally appropriate management and support services, and
  • Rental and revenue arrangements.


The charette began as an externally-driven exercise but the participants quickly made it their own project.  The ideas and life experiences of participating students provided valuable insights into the types of services that would work in an Aboriginal student housing development.  As a result, a clearly stated vision emerged with a new and detailed model.