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Indigenous Nation Building


Yoko Akama and Peter West are participating in an emergent theory and practice of Indigenous Nation Building (INB). INB has been structured through multi-institutional partnerships and a suite of grants from Melbourne School of Government Cluster Grant and ARC Linkage (LP140100376), which have enabled INB to take root in Australia. The ARC research is titled “Indigenous nationhood in the absence of recognition: Self-governance strategies and insights from three Aboriginal communities”, that aims to strengthen Australian Indigenous governance. This Linkage (2014-2017) brings together three Aboriginal nations (Gunditjmara from Victoria, Ngarrindjeri from South Australia and individuals and groups from the Wiradjuri in NSW) with Australian and international academic researchers from seven universities (UTS, University of Arizona, University of Melbourne, Flinders University, Charles Sturt University, RMIT and ANU).

Akama and West is collaborating with Seth Keen (Media, RMIT) and PaperGiants (Interaction Design) to explore how Indigenous sovereignty is being practiced through material and digital cultures. This team works closely with Wiradjuri representatives, Mark McMillan and Faye McMillan, and many members of the Wiradjuri nation, which has one of the largest territories on the Australian eastern seaboard. The Wiradjuri have experienced extensive dispersal of its citizens through forced relocation and the establishment of numerous missions.

Re-settlement urban centres on Wiradjuri Country in NSW are generally heterogeneous with a number of regional towns containing Wiradjuri, non-Wiradjuri Aboriginal and non-Indigenous populations. In spite of this geographic dispersal, many Wiradjuri individuals and groups possess a strong cultural identity and are actively exercising responsibility for their Country. The research team is exploring various mechanisms for this mobilization through designing various digital and creative scaffolds that range in scale, from publicly accessible social and printed media, websites and digital broadcasts and a Wiradjuri digital platform that is specific to and accessible only by Wiradjuri participants (eg. see Wiradjuri in Melbourne www.wiradjurioffcountry.com.au).

These become a participatory and methodological inquiry to examine the invisible, fluid and vernacular diversity in which Indigenous sovereignty is being practiced.

Designing for this team is also not about designing for Wiradjuri people to support their practices of sovereignty and nation building that suggests suggest ‘othering’ and promoting instrumental, dependent and service-provision relations. Instead, designing with Wiradjuri is emphasized to explore how the digital and creative scaffolds mediate and manifest lawful relations among and between Wiradjuri and non-Indigenous people.

Published papers and public presentations:

Akama, Y, Keen, S & West, P 2016, 'Speculative Design and Heterogeneity in Indigenous Nation Building';, in the conference proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems 2016, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, June 4-8 2016.

Akama, Y & West, P 2016, ‘The role of design in speculating and catalyzing Indigenous nation building’ in Design Futures Lab public lecture series, SAB Building, RMIT University, 7 th March 2016.

Akama, Y 2016, ‘Wiradjuri Nation Building’ in Design for Social Intervention Research Seminar, Design Hub, RMIT University, 8 th April 2016.