Marngo Designing Futures

  • 2020

  • Social Impact

Designed By:

  • Samantha Edwards Vandenhoek
  • Alison Page
  • Marcus Lee
  • Joanna Gardener

Commissioned By:

Australian Government

Designed In:


Marngo Designing Futures is a national place-based and culture-centred digital storytelling program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary students that seeks to build confidence and resilience, youth entrepreneurship and leadership capacity while raising awareness of career pathways in design and media.

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Image: Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak
Image: Lyn-Al Young
Image: Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek
Image: Melbourne Indigenous Transition School
Image: Ngalangangpum School, Warmun
Image: Melbourne Indigenous Transition School
Image: Upper Yarra Secondary College
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  • Indigenous students tend to choose and complete tertiary courses that are relevant to their lives as Indigenous people or those that will benefit their communities. Studying in a primarily Western learning environment and learning content which reflects very little, if any, Indigenous perspectives have been cited as reasons for low participation in design and media arts courses in Australia. Working with Indigenous designers, Elders, art centres and school communities, Marngo Designing Futures was initiated to understand and address this disparity through the provision of place-based design and media arts curricula that centralises local Indigenous narratives, perspectives and knowledge systems.

  • Through the provision of place-centric design curricula and two-way action-orientated learning activities, students develop and reinforce their cultural identities and express and share their stories through varied design practices and media applications. Place-based education describes a culture-centred approach to learning and knowledge sharing where the place provides the context for learning. Place-based education fosters problem-solving and culture-based innovations, which in turn increases students’ feelings of pride, self-confidence and resilience. Through yarning circles, participatory video and photography, students are able to capture, frame and evaluate their own experiences. These methods build capacity and strengthen student investment in the design process outcomes.

  • 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people from Victoria, Western Australia and Northern Territory have benefited from participation since the program's inception in 2014. Marngo Designing Futures creates knowledge of national significance as it paves the way for participatory and place-centric learning approaches prioritising the engagement and reinforcing the cultural values of Indigenous people in higher education. Acquiring and transferring Indigenous cultural knowledge and design literacy also brings significant long-term benefits in shaping the future of Australia’s creative industries. Marngo was recognised with a Commendation at the 2019 Victorian Premier's Design Awards and awarded Swinburne's 2018 Vice-Chancellors Reconciliation Award.

  • Marngo Designing Futures is a Swinburne School of Design initiative. It has been funded by the Australian Government's Higher Education Participation Program. Indigenous designer Marcus Lee, a descendent of the Karajarri people of North-Western Australia and Director of Marcus Lee Designs conceived and developed the visual identify for the program. A symbol of a Bogong moth was chosen to reflect the stories and histories that encapsulate Marngo's aspirations, particularly its focus on self-determination, personal growth and transformation. Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Joy Murphy, granted permission for the use of the Woiwurrung word ‘Marngo’ (meaning 'over there, in the future') as the name. The counsel of Wadi Wadi Walbanga designer and filmmaker, Alison Page has been crucial to the program's sustained relevance. Filmed at Mungo National Park, Alison co-directed a short film about the program with student participants. SBS acquired 3-year screening rights in 2017. Gunnai, Waradjuri, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta designer Lyn-Al Young is a vital program partner and is involved in the design and delivery of on-campus and remote learning programs through her 'fasheaming' initiative. School partners include Melbourne Indigenous Transition School, Worawa Aboriginal College, Korin Gamadji Institute, Purnululu Independent Aboriginal School, Girls Academy, and Upper Yarra Secondary College.