Is the Aboriginal element invisible in the Australian urban landscape?

The Sydney-based organisation, Balarinji has been challenging this invisibility for over three decades by creating opportunities within Australia’s property, design and development industry to give voice to the rich Aboriginal narrative.

Leaders within the Indigenous employment and development space, Mark Kucks and Jeremy Donovan, and Balarinji’s Ros Moriarty discussed the untapped potential of Indigenous design at the Urbanity conference earlier this year.

While the journey hasn’t been easy, Balarinji has worked on significant projects that celebrates Indigenous design including covering five Qantas aircrafts in Aboriginal art.  

Moriarty believes that incorporating Indigenous design can also be profitable – the first aircraft was a great success with the artwork helping generate $5 million in PR for Qantas on the first day.

Balarinji has also worked on design projects for Sydney Metro and has been recently appointed to the Design Team of the WSP-Aecom consortium to help incorporate Aboriginal cultural principles within the overall design and built environment framework.

However, to maximise the Indigenous design element in Australian architecture, Mark Kucks and Jeremy Donovan believe it needs to be included as the first step in the project, and not as an afterthought.

Mark Kucks, who joined Hutchinson Builders in 2012 to lead a national Indigenous strategy, has been responsible for creating employment as well as sub-contracting opportunities for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Donovan runs a consultancy, ‘Walking With Wisdom’ that engages with the government, corporate and community.

According to Donovan, the inclusion of an Indigenous element in projects is always discussed towards the end and not early on during the development phase. What’s needed is a collaborative approach wherein the community is engaged during the design stage, as Lendlease did on the Barangaroo Sydney project.

However, Moriarty, Kucks and Donovan believe that there has been progress on the subject in the country, and within the architecture and design industry.