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Designing with Indigenous knowledge: a journey to develop policy and protocols for respectful cross-cultural representation in design education and practice

conference contribution
posted on 2020-05-30, 00:00 authored by Russell KennedyRussell Kennedy
This article is a reflective exploration of strategically aligned, research activities spanning a twelve-year period (2006-2018). These activities precede, include and follow a PhD dissertation completed in 2015 by the author of this article. Described as ongoing, this practice based, cultural innovation research continues to explore ways to improve, promote and maintain the respectful representation of Indigenous culture in professional design practice. This thematic case study includes a number of activities and events that have acted to build understanding by ameliorating complex cultural narratives. The article describes associated events leading up to the completion of a PHD dissertation titled: Designing with Indigenous Knowledge: Policy and protocols for respectful and authentic cross-cultural representation in communication design practice. It goes onto explain how four researchers (2 X Indigenous and 2 X non-Indigenous) then collaborated and consulted globally to develop actionable outcomes that expanded on the PhD findings. The collective aim was to further investigate the notion of best practice protocols to assist design practitioners and educators. In 2016 they produced the Australian Indigenous Design Charter (AIDC), a ten step guide for the respectful application of Indigenous knowledge in communication design education and practice. The Design Institute of Australia (DIA) subsequently recognized the AIDC by publishing it on their website as ‘Practice Notes’. In 2017, an expanded iteration of this document was launched in Montreal, Canada, titled the: International Indigenous Design Charter (IIDC). This globally focused document broadened the scope from communication design to include all design disciplines including architecture. This multidisciplinary guide has been endorsed by the International Council of Design (ico-D) and currently appears on their website as a best practice document for architects, designers and educators. Jefa Greenaway (Wailwan, Gamillaraay), prominent Indigenous Australian architect, University of Melbourne academic, and co-founder of Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria (IADV) suggests the reason why the Charter has been so well embraced internationally among first nations peoples is because the protocols have been articulated and codified in an accessible and legible way (Greenaway 2018). In Australia, Deakin University, Monash University and the University of Melbourne have all formally embedded both the Australian and International Indigenous Design Charters in their design education curricula. The authors of the Charter envisage that in time this approach to design pedagogy will adopted globally. This article not only describes the journey of this cultural innovation research project but it also provides a parallel commentary on how understandings and attitudes changed during the period of its development. What started out as an awkward discussion in 2006 has matured steadily to a point where the need for respectful representation of Indigenous culture is now recognized by design stakeholders worldwide.



Education and practice - understanding skills in a complex world. Conference






AMPS proceedings


147 - 156


UCL Press


New Jersey / New York, N.Y.

Place of publication

London, Eng.

Start date


End date








Publication classification

E1 Full written paper - refereed


Ellyn Lester, Graham Cairns, Eric An

Title of proceedings

Education, design and practice : Understanding skills in a complex world

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