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bangawarra: voices leading change

Joining their considerable forces in 2018, Jo Kinniburgh and Shannon Foster, as bangawarra (meaning to make, to design and to bring about through sustained effort), have a monumental task ahead of them.

bangawarra: voices leading change

North Head Lookout Barragula with CHROFI, photography courtesy of bangawarra.

Jo Kinniburgh and Shannon Foster as bangawarra, in short, aim to facilitate a shift in thinking whereby we (and they mean all of us) “challenge the erasure of Aboriginality from our built environment”, says Kinniburgh. Monumental indeed!

These two are, however, most assuredly the ones to enable this type of change. Both academics, on the one hand, Kinniburgh brings a background in Architecture. The former director of education, school of architecture, landscape architecture and interior architecture at UTS, Kinniburgh has a further 13 years of experience as a lecturer in architectural design.

Foster’s background is similarly impressive, with her skillset recognised and registered as a Traditional Owner and D’harawal Knowledge Keeper.

Foster’s doctoral research with the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges at UTS addresses site-specific, Sydney-based Aboriginal knowledges and documents the stories and knowledge of her family – the D’harawal people of the Sydney region.

Related Content: Connecting with Country – an architectural framework for Blackwattle Bay

Kamay Botany Bay Visitors Centre with Crone, render courtesy of bangawarra.

Foster was appointed to the government architect NSW Aboriginal expert advisory panel consulting on the ‘Designing with Country document’ and is a core member of the Connecting with Country cultural advisory panel for the ‘Connecting with Country Framework’.

She also has over twenty years of experience designing education programs and spaces in prominent Sydney learning institutions as an interdisciplinary creative practitioner and is an artist of note.

Effectively bangawarra is a partnership that challenges colonial spatial practices. As a rough outline, colonial spatial practice is the act of overlaying an existing culture with buildings and structures that normalise colonial presence and negate the previous culture – slapping a sporting stadium on a cultural site, for example.

The Cutaway Barangaroo with fjmt, photography courtesy of bangawarra.

As agents for change, bangawarra works collaboratively with architects and planners to not just provide the information required to fulfil their brief but to help them listen, value and respect tens of millennia of unbroken ancestral knowledge and culture.

“We provide site-specific Aboriginal knowledges, language and cultural consultancy and work with clients to reveal its relevance to spatial design and planning,” says Kinniburgh.

“Our shared praxes revolve around the central belief that when we acknowledge overlooked spatial histories of place and country, only then can we speculate on more inclusive, culturally-rich and sustainable future spaces and places.”

As such, bangawarra was created as a partnership of respected spatial and design practitioners who work collaboratively on projects where the client and stakeholders have a genuine commitment to decolonising space.

Recent projects of note include North head lookout, with CHROFI, their collaboration with fjmt on Cutaway at Barangaroo, Blackwattle Bay and Parramatta Private Hospital, with Tyrrell Studio for Callan Park and the City of Sydney for Green Square, SJB for Sydney Opera House, and with Bradfield City wpca western parklands city authority.


Courtesy of bangawarra

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