Co-design about priortising stories, not simply designing innovative policies

By Anna Macdonald

April 22, 2022

Kado Muir on screen
Ngalia traditional owner and National Native Title Council chair Kado Muir. (on screen in 2021) (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The importance of priortising people’s stories when it comes to co-design was emphasised at a discussion on the implementation of Western Australia government’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021.

Preliminary findings at the two-day workshop between representatives from government, industry and investors were that traditional owners felt discouraged by past experiences with consultation.

Ngalia traditional owner and National Native Title Council chair Kado Muir said: “At the higher level – around the ethics and the ethical framework – we are effectively looking at articulating our rights within a corporate as well as a bureaucratic administrative process. In many respects, the right frameworks have not been effectively mapped out by government to allow us as first nations people to effectively articulate.”

An expert in the area emphasised the importance of designing with people, not for people. 

“It’s not just another word for consultation,” senior lecturer in strategic design Dr Chris Kueh at Edith Cowan University explained. “Participants don’t just provide feedback that can be either used or ignored. They should have equal standing at every stage – from identifying the relevant problems, designing solutions, and continual improvements as needed.”

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent should be part of the co-design process, as articulated by Muir.

Not only did the workshop find that culture should be central to the process, but, in addition, lived experience of culture should be given as much weight as professional or educational experience. 

Kariyarra traditional owner and director of Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation Raylene Button said that the workshop was a valuable opportunity for representatives of different sectors to discuss co-design, although flagged there was more to be done in the space. 

“The challenge remains, however,” said Button, “to see if these conversations will actually translate into meaningful outcomes. We want the state government to listen to what we have had to say here, just as we were open to listening to others, when it comes to undertaking its co-design approach in relation to the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.

“The bottom line is, it is our cultural heritage, and we need our voices to be heard. We can’t keep being ignored on matters that directly and significantly impact us and our culture like we have in the past.”


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