ABC Radio National (RN) show ‘Awaye’ recently added a podcast to its website which explores the concept of blak design and the importance of acknowledging Indigenous Australian heritage and sensibilities in architecture and urban planning.

This podcast is a recording of a panel discussion convened by the Koorie Heritage Trust and Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria at the Clemenger Auditorium at the National Gallery of Victoria for Melbourne Design Week.

It was hosted by RN presenter Daniel Bowling who spoke with a panel involving renowned Indigenous architect Jefa Greenaway and landscape architect Paul Herzich, as well as interior designer Nicole Monks and urban planner Timmah Ball.

The panel was asked to flesh out some concrete examples of Indigenous-led design and to explain how can we manage the contradiction between building on and up and protecting Aboriginal heritage values embedded in the landscape. The panel also interrogated how Indigenous design is defined, perceived and how it is made visible in Australia’s contemporary design environment.

It talked about the Barak building in Melbourne by ARM Architecture, Barangaroo in Sydney, the gentrification of towns with high Aboriginal populations like Sydney’s Redfern, and the obligatory fire pits in public spaces, among other things.

An answer from Jefa Greenway to the first question about what blak design actually means set the scene for an engaging discussion.

“It’s a good question. It’s a question that in many respects Aboriginals and Torrest Strait Islanders are still grappling with themselves, so we need to be upfront with it.

“It’s an emerging area of inquiry and for me, a lot of it stems from a series of key driving considerations - the first is acknowledgement.”

“It’s also about understanding that we can reference our place as distinct from sort of a globalised, sort of homogenisation of design.

“For me it’s very much about understanding a process which facilitates deep listening, engagement, meaningful consultation, and collaboration, but also empowerment, also employment, also facilitating a legacy.

“Rather than the sort of linear process of sort of design, document, build, it’s often a non-linear process whereby we start to incorporate aspects which are not necessarily considered part of the mix.

“Social justice will come up, understanding cultural connections, facilitating place making. So all these elements become the toolkit in which we work to engage with some of the sensibilities that connect explicitly to our place.

View the full podcast Does blak design matter? on AWAYE! (Listen Up) here.