Engagement that leads to award-winning design
The Indigenous Specialist Services team is currently working on several exciting projects around the country – such as consulting on Sydney’s M6 Stage 1 motorway project. And, some of their recent work has been recognised at the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) Landscape Architecture Awards. The Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) saw us consult on level crossings removals and new infrastructure along the Frankston rail line in Victoria. At one of the key sites, the team facilitated the co-design of a large urban marker and a yarning circle next to the Karrum Karrum Bridge. The urban marker features a diamond pattern, which is an identifier of the local Boonwurrung/Bunurong people, and also depicts an eagle ‘Bunjuil’, which is the spiritual creator of the Port Philip Bay region where the bridge is located.
Allan says, “On that project, our clients really put the ownership and respect in our hands, so we could be on the project as technical and cultural advisors. This allowed us to act as advocates breaking out the rich cultural design opportunities.
“And, we had some wonderful feedback from the community about the yarning circle. We heard directly from Traditional Owners that they were thankful and really proud of this beautiful site that will leave a cultural legacy – where we were able to embed a cultural practice (the yarning circle) into the built environment. It’s a cultural practice that's been going on for many, many thousands of years. And to do that in their own backyard, they were extremely thankful and grateful.”
Kirsten Ruckert adds that Indigenous co-design of projects like these leads to highly successful outcomes because the result is something people are proud to have in their neighbourhood.
She says, “What we end up with, is these beautiful pieces of infrastructure, whether it’s a bridge or a pier or a public space. There's a sense of pride from the whole community and from stakeholders. And, you get an additional benefit in that we see less graffiti, and less damage to the infrastructure as well. On top of that, the community really responds to and interacts with the infrastructure, with a true sense of ownership.”
A step towards cultural healing
For Allan, one of the most rewarding aspects of his job is the happiness he hears in Traditional Owners’ voices, once they see a project actualised.
He adds, “I’m humbled when I hear from stakeholders that the role we play is actually giving the Traditional Owners’ in a land council, for example, a sense of purpose. And it’s giving them an aspect of cultural healing because they're presenting their cultural values and cultural practices. It’s knowledge that’s been within their family group for a very long time and we've been able to create the room, the culturally safe space, so they're more than happy to pass their knowledge on.
“The spaces we create allows them to articulate and tell their beautiful stories, and in some cases, they might not have told them to anyone else before.
“It's a nice place to be at WSP today, playing this role that is elevating everyone's cultural awareness and cultural appreciation. It’s a good place to sit, and it’s really humbling.”
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