Being Wiradjuri Together – Co-Designing Self-Determination

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  • 2018

  • Social Impact

Designed By:

  • Wiradjuri Nation Citizens: Aunty Lorraine Tye
  • Mark McMillan
  • Bev Munro-Harrison
  • Tom Munro-Harrison
  • Emily Munro-Harrison, Faye McMillan, Todd Fernando, Dean Heta, RMIT-led Design and Media Team: Peter West, Yoko Akama, Linda Elliott, Seth Keen, Cormac Mills Ritchard, Kylie Wickham, Paper Giant, Public Journal.

Commissioned By:

Wiradjuri Nation Citizens: Aunty Lorraine Tye

Mark McMillan

Bev Munro-Harrison

Tom Munro-Harrison

Emily Munro-Harrison, Faye McMillan, Todd Fernando, Dean Heta, RMIT-led Design and Media Team: Peter West, Yoko Akama, Linda Elliott, Seth Keen, Cormac Mills Ritchard, Kylie Wickham, Paper Giant, Public Journal.

Designed In:

Australia

This project is about Wiradjuri people who are self-determining – renewing cultural practices and expressing what it means to be Wiradjuri. This is catalyzed through co-designing among Wiradjuri and RMIT-led team to create various mechanisms – print, video, social media, digital platform and community events – to connect, share and be Wiradjuri together.


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  • At the heart of this work is Indigenous sovereign recognition as the basis to build stronger relationships in Australia. A significant design challenge is to overcome colonial impacts of dispersal, disconnect and assumptions of deficit. Wiradjuri ‘problems’ are not ‘solved’ by design, but rather, design responds to Wiradjuri invitation to collaborate as self-determination. This design respects cultural protocols and guidance by Elders and community leaders as fundamental to its process. Co-designing is enacted through relationships among this interdisciplinary team, built upon mutual respect and reciprocity, to dwell on the land we share and participate in designing our futures together.

  • Wiradjuri self-determination occurs by being Wiradjuri together, and through the collective knowing and acknowledgement of each other. Many mechanisms were designed to facilitate talking, sharing and continue connecting. These include physical gatherings on Wiradjuri Country, like *Dabaamalang Waybarra Miya Sovereign Weaving* (‘mob of people weaving together, acting in concert’), or as *Wiradjuri in Melbourne* for those living and working ‘off Country’. On-line connections were reinforced through websites, social media or video sharing on a digital platform. This is social innovation at work, giving visibility to Wiradjuri stories and enabling ways to continue sharing them as a celebration of self-determination.

  • Social impact of this work, spanning several years and projects, is timely and significant for Wiradjuri and Australia. For many Wiradjuri who are living ‘off Country’ in cities like Sydney and Melbourne, the annual gathering to connect on another Nation’s land and be Wiradjuri together is a powerful enactment of their sovereignty. Events like *Sovereign Weaving* are being adapted by Wiradjuri groups in different geographical areas, indicating its significance in rediscovering points of connection for a dispersed Nation. Such events, gatherings, conversations and more, are documented and shared through the Wiradjuri digital platform for on-going self-determination and catalyse Treaty discussions.

  • *‘Weaving is about gathering, connecting and healing … it’s about reeds combining, to make something stronger.’* Aunty Lorraine Tye led weaving as a key activity in all the events. This cultural renewal also required sensitivity to potential emotional turbulence to identifying and gathering as a cultural group, and accept all levels of Wiradjuri knowledge and experience. Various strategies were used to invite a broad inclusion, for example, *Wiradjuri in Melbourne* utilized humour and light-hearted tone throughout all designed elements on social media, website, t-shirts, interactive displays and posters. For *Sovereign Weaving* gatherings, its website evolved through continuous uploads from the event, animating movement of hands, bodies, materials and landscapes to become an image-led ‘dialogue’. The Wiradjuri digital platform houses footage from these events where videos and stories can be uploaded and shared. It is accessed via a password, making it a safe, interactive place for many who are beginning to explore their Wiradjuri identity, understanding and connection. Invited Wiradjuri people can watch, select video segments as ‘clips’, tag and search with keywords, engage through comments and discussion to seed possibilities for more Wiradjuri to participate in a conversation, anywhere, anytime. This demonstrates Wiradjuri sovereignty as a contemporary, ongoing, poly-vocal act.