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Holly Bennett
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More than 30 local and international First Nations design practitioners will present at the University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Design Symposium this week to explore the role of Indigenous design.

Conference Convenor, architect and Lecturer in Indigenous Curriculum Development Jefa Greenaway said the symposium Indigenous Design – Past | Present | Future will reveal a range of distinct insights drawn from many experiences, people and forms of cultural expression.

“Focusing on the interconnected themes of culture, Country and identity, we’ll hear from established local and international speakers from Canada to El Salvador, New Zealand to South Africa, as well as the diverse mosaic that is Indigenous Australia,” Mr Greenaway said. 

“Each of them brings new inspirations, narratives and expressions within the design realm that we can learn from.”

In the past, non-Indigenous designers have been hesitant to consider Indigenous perspectives, and the value that Indigenous led methodologies can bring. Mr Greenaway is hoping to change that.

“The key to changing this is to start with design education. We need to empower the profession by reshaping the teaching framework of design to normalise Indigenous perspectives,” he said.

“Here at the University’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, we’re reshaping the new Bachelor of Design by normalising connections to Indigenous culture through curriculum development.

“There will always be questions, but it’s about finding the answers in a way that acknowledges Indigenous voices. Not shying away from the challenges but, rather, embracing them.”

Mr Greenaway said the value lies in understanding that Indigenous input has tangible benefit. 

“An Indigenous-led approach to knowledge exchange seeks to embrace complexity, demystify and challenge stereotypes and celebrate history, memory and place,” Mr Greenaway said.

“Indigenous designers offer a point of distinction which can move beyond a simple western lens of design and can assist in showcasing and celebrating a culture of deep antiquity and invention.

“This is actually a part of us all and ideally will continue to be embraced as we build upon some of the optimist trends around acknowledging that Indigenous culture is all around us.”

Mr Greenaway explores what Indigenous design perspective is, and what we can do to increase its visibility on Pursuit.