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How new voluntary requirements are paving the way for increased Indigenous engagement in the built environment

GBCA and Winya are leading the way for better consultation and cooperation with Australia’s First Peoples.

How new voluntary requirements are paving the way for increased Indigenous engagement in the built environment

New Green Star credits are set to change the way designers should be thinking about Indigenous engagement, cultures and identies, with the release of new rating tools aiming to address tokenistic engagement and the “Blak Cladding” that emerged after the introduction of the Indigenous Procurement Policy.

Developed in consultation with industry and government, the Green Building Council of Australia have released three new credits that address different aspects of design, consultation and outcomes for Indigenous communities and businesses. More specifically, Credit 30 examines the culture, heritage and identity of a project, Credit 32 looks at Indigenous inclusion facilitated through either reconciliation action plans or through project designs, and Credit 33 mandates a minimum social procurement spend (2% of contract value) used to employ disadvantaged or marginalised groups.

In prioritising more considered collaboration with Indigenous communities, businesses and consultants, the Green Building Council is acknowledging the inherent connection between Indigenous Australians and sustainability, and the way their ingrained knowledge and lived experience can help inform industry’s shift to a more sustainable future. So too, these credits acknowledge the deep cultural ties to land, and the impact on Country and culture inaction would and does mean.

Winya Indigenous Furniture has been a long-time educator in effective Indigenous engagement and has spent its time in industry advocating for better and more sustained collaborative relationships. Winya provides a CPD session discussing Indigenous Engagement and Design, within this they promote the use of the acronym R.I.C.C (Respect, Indigenous Control, Communication & Consent, and Continuing Cultures) to ensure effective communication and avoid issues of cultural appropriation in all engagement opportunities.

“Respect” refers to respecting the rights of Indigenous people to own and control their heritage. This can include things like images, stories, designs and other cultural expressions and is especially important given Australia’s historical disregard of Indigenous rights to culture and cultural expression.

 “Indigenous Control” means that Indigenous people have the right to the self-determination of their cultural affairs and by extension the expression of their cultural materials. This means that when engaging with an Indigenous business or individual there needs to be a clear discussion about how Indigenous control over the project will be exercised and to what extent it will be involved. There needs to be meaningful discussions over who actually has the right to consent to the use of cultural materials. Generally, elders within the community hold authority over specific stories, geographic locations, styles and imagery, these need to be identified and addressed accordingly.

“Communicate and Consent”, involves building understanding and awareness about the Indigenous culture involved and ensuring enough time and that all information is given to consider a request and that changes to a project are clearly communicated. This is especially important as Indigenous cultures are dynamic and evolving and the protocols within each group and community will continue to change. Effective communication ensures that the connections made will allow for future work and collaboration to take place.

The new Green Star Credits should propel a new generation of designers into increased and better engagement with Indigenous businesses. As these voluntary changes look to raise the bar for Australia’s built environment, companies like Winya are ready to facilitate deeper collaboration, procurement and consultation processes to ensure better outcomes for Indigenous businesses and communities alike.


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