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Scholarship supports graduate's passion for socio-spatial justice

Posted May 03, 2024

SGS Economics and Planning Rafi 1

After working with a remote indigenous community in Indonesia, Rafi knew what impact he wanted his career to have. Growing up in Jakarta, the nation’s capital, Rafi could see the striking inequality between the city and remote areas. He experienced first-hand the value of infrastructure and services for a remote community.

Rafi was awarded the SGS Economics and Planning Graham Larcombe Scholarship for academic excellence and his genuine commitment to addressing inequality and social disadvantage. Rafi has completed his master’s in urban planning at the University of Melbourne and hopes the degree will give him the tools to have the impact he wants.

I originally studied architecture and became interested in the value of buildings on a bigger scale. Planning felt like the right fit. I realised how important planning is to community wellbeing.

— Thirafi Aman

For Rafi, a participatory approach to planning is crucial. His work with indigenous communities centred around the co-design of a school, and participatory methods played a large role in his architectural work. Rafi aims to carry over this participatory approach to planning.

Figure 2
Community consultation process of "Skola Lipu", a project Rafi did in 2019 to co-design and construct a school building for Indigenous children in Wana Posangke, Central Sulawesi

Indonesia is a vast archipelago. Accessing goods and services comes at a high cost for communities who live in remote areas. Well-planned infrastructure is needed for community inclusion and autonomy.

— Thirafi Aman

Rafi can appreciate the role of public infrastructure in cities like Melbourne in addressing social inequality. However, planning approaches used in Melbourne might not be the right fit for the communities he is trying to impact. He commented:

There is a big gap between the Western planning approach and local contexts in remote Indonesia. Planning in these places can be bottom-up, spontaneous, and organic. That’s why community participation in planning is important to meet community needs, understand their perspectives, and appreciate their lived experiences.

— Thirafi Aman
SGS Economics and Planning Rafi 2
Construction process of Skola Lipu - the construction of the main school building.

Rafi’s field of expertise is in informal settlements. His award-winning thesis maps out the urban design of informal settlements in Jakarta, a project Rafi feels bolstered his passion and dedication to championing socio-spatial justice in urban planning.

The scholarship gives Rafi the opportunity to further his research on planning in developing countries. As part of this, Rafi aims to travel back to Indonesia to host facilitation events and workshops on participatory mapping, which are aspects of the profession he is particularly interested in.

The scholarship is really encouraging. It’s validating to have my work, expertise, and passion for planning recognised in this way.

— Thirafi Aman

The SGS Economics and Planning Graham Larcombe Scholarship is awarded to high-achieving students who are passionate about equality and social justice in cities. It is awarded annually to a student at Melbourne University and Western Sydney University. The SGS scholarship is named after the late Graham Larcombe, a champion of the people. Graham was a co-consultant, teacher, and honorary adviser at SGS. He was passionate about equality of opportunity, environmental sustainability and the proper, inclusive governance of our cities, towns, and regions—for him, these were integral elements of a prosperous society. He was dedicated to empowering the voices of the community members and ensuring their needs were met in the places they lived.

He lived his beliefs in his everyday life while inspiring those he worked alongside. This scholarship allows SGS to reward, motivate and provide opportunities for students who share Graham's passion.

If you would like to know more about the scholarship, please get in touch.

SGS Economics and Planning DHA2023 142 SGSEP 2
Photographer James Rafferty captures Professor Nicholas Phelps, Chair of Urban Planning at Melbourne School of Design, Faculty of Architecture, Building, and Planning, alongside Thirafi Aman.

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