Conversations - Friday 14th October 

Conversation one – The Meaning of Country: Elders in Conversation  
Country is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Aboriginal peoples belong to Country through historical, existing, and future networks of shared and unique connections and reciprocal relationships with Country. The relational tapestry of spatially identifiable Country comprises continuously evolving systems of knowledge that ground Aboriginal cultures, communities, and peoples. These groundings permit Aboriginal peoples to practice roles, responsibilities, and obligations to Country within the network that honours the continuity of past, present and future. 

In 2022, Country is often considered across various work within the built environment professions, and for good reason. Today, landscape architects are challenged with the call to make Country an everyday practice across wide-ranging work that can positively connect the past, present and future. To respectfully inform an expected collective response to this challenge, Aboriginal community Elders are invited to renew and share rich cultural knowledges, personal meanings, and multi-communal understandings of Country through conversations and storied truth telling.

As the starting point of the festival, this conversation will ground the audience in preparation for deep dives into the complexity of the many disclosures and in anticipation to all possible tensions to be experienced and acknowledged in subsequent sessions – maintaining relationality and continuity.

Conversation two – Decolonising thoughts: unlearning to learn

Since 1966, AILA has been the peak body for creating great places to support healthy communities and a sustainable planet. Today, the landscape architecture profession may be described as a multi-disciplinary and all-encompassing approach to recognising, valuing, protecting, and sustaining landscapes for the benefit of the community. Yet, the profession and discipline in Australia aren’t free from a deeply rooted colonial model that supports Eurocentrism. That archaic model is the mechanism that has permitted landscape architecture to contribute to perpetuating colonial authority, excluding the Aboriginal presence in landscapes and the omission of Country. 

In our current era of addressing the manifest of inequity and injustice towards Aboriginal communities and the Australian environment, lays bare an opportunity for renewing Country as the antidote to a series of sustainability and social challenges. This includes the decolonisation of landscape architecture throughout Australia.

This challenging conversation is found in interdisciplinary criticality to question perceptions and to reveal truthful cultural tensions that entail the creative process and practices. It is not to offer answers, rather it invites one to unsettle their current professional trajectory that struggles with questioning to disassemble archaic habits of thinking and of doing. 

Conversation three – Designing with Country I: Paradigms and interdisciplinarity 

Acknowledging Country in spaces and places enables landscape architects to engage with inspiration, ideas, and opportunities directly from the Aboriginal people and communities who belong. As a practice, designing with Country contributes to improved inter-disciplinary understanding by creating spaces that connect with pre-colonial and modern Aboriginal cultures and reveal the multi-layered relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their Country.

This conversation brings together professionals to present their Country based philosophical and technical knowledges through projects and other achievements, all of which are cultural affirmations that exemplify the emerging modern architectural paradigm of Country.  


Conversations - Saturday 15th October  

Conversation four – Designing with Country II: Shifting paradigms - government to community  

Embedding Country within any profession is deliberately political and representative of Aboriginal peoples. In the built environment profession, the presence of Country expands on Aboriginal social resistance and endurance whilst material inscriptions of different forms, scales, and ambitions continue to trace Aboriginal cultural legacies.

However, the built environment discipline’s paradigm shift to incorporate Country across all aspects of practice somewhat lags in comparison to other disciplines, such as health, education, and social studies. This slow shift is evidenced through low numbers of Indigenous tertiary graduates in built environment programs. However, a community of built environment graduates is only one element of influence that is needed to drive much needed multi-layered change to complete a paradigm shift for designing with Country.

This conversation brings together a variety of professionals, Aboriginal cultural discourses and ambitions, multidisciplinary projects and visions resulting in Aboriginal contributions to the paradigm shift in policy making and practice to embed designing with Country.

Conversation five – Indigenising Practice: First Nations Agency

Indigenous peoples and communities around the world are increasingly asserting ‘First Nations Agency’ to strengthen their powers with governments and professional institutions to foster opportunities for collaborative stewardship of Indigenous lands. Whilst Australian governments continue to stumble with binding elements of the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Australian law and increasing First Nations Agency, built environment educators, students and practitioners have opportunities available to create change through community power. 

In fact, the importance of landscape architecture as an agent for collaborations with Indigenous communities for positive change has never been greater. The opportunities for Indigenising practice go beyond understanding the Acknowledgement of Country as a respectful phrase to making it a methodology and practice for embedding Indigenous knowledges, languages, governance systems, cultural heritages, community protocols and obligations to community.  Doing so will facilitate the co-generation, co-production and co-application of new knowledge needed to navigate through an uncertain future.

This conversation brings together old and new thoughts to ask how First Nations people, practitioners and centred thinking can intervene in the common practice to realign Country and Indigeneity in practice.

Conversation six – Future: Country in practice

In recent years, there is increased evidence of public interest in Aboriginal connection to Country and the need to care for Country. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges continue to be adopted across Australia’s urban and regional centres. This has resulted in Traditional Owners and custodians or Indigenous residents participating in the design of place, space and built form that is mindful of the needs of Country and islands according to the custodians.

This mainstream cultural shift in thinking, demand for Indigenous content, more inclusive engagement and planning practices, policy development and updated legislation exemplifies how we can change the status quo with Country to improve modern society. However, many attempts to incorporate Country or Indigenous perspectives in practice fail to empower Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders and their respective communities. The rush to embed, incorporate, design, and decolonise with Country must not replicate old and damaging habits from what is becoming a bygone era. 

Dr Tristan Schultz 

Relative Creative
COUNTRY Facilitator 
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Kevin O’Brien

Kaurareg and Meriam
COUNTRY Facilitator 
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Greg Kitson

Wakka Wakka
Aboriginal Community Planner
COUNTRY Facilitator 
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Troy Casey

Blaklash Creative
COUNTRY Facilitator
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Kaylie Salvatori 

Yuin Budawang
COLA Studio

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Dr Alayna Pakinui Rā

Kāi Tahu (Tūāhuriri), Ngāti Mamoe, Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Kahungunu (Tūtekawa)
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Paul Herzich


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Georgia Birks

Birpai, Dunghutti and Kamilaroi 
Architecture Media

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Elle Davidson

Zion Engagement and Planning

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Carol Vale

Murawin Pty Ltd

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Sarah Lynn Rees

Jackson Clements Burrows Architects/ Monash Art Design and Architecture
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Assoc Prof Deb Duthie

Wakka Wakka Warumungu
Queensland University of Technology

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Elisapeta Heta

Ngatiwai, Waikato Tainui, Sāmoan

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Laree Barney

QUT, Arcadia

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Dr Danièle Hromek


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Angela Barney-Leitch

Woppaburra Gaumi Enkil 

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Owen Cafe

Aspect Studios, QUT, Blaklash

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Tom Day

Gunditjmara, Wemba Wemba, Yorta Yorta
Jirri Jirri Art and Design 

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Erin McDonald

Blaklash Creative

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Jake Nash

Daly River 
Bangarra Dance Theatre

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Craig Kerslake

Tubba-Gah Wiradjuri
Nguluway DesignInc

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Des Cloake AILA


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Jefa Greenaway

Greenaway Architects/University of Melbourne
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Ripeka Walker

Ngati Porou, Whakatõhea
RRK Walker, University of Melbourne

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Jordan Eaton

Bundjalung and Githabul

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Nathan Brandrick

Gureng Gureng

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Mackenzie Saddler

Arcadia Landscape Architecture

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Ezra Jacobs-Smith

Nyoongar Country
Nyoongar man and Environmental Engineer - currently working on the WA Aboriginal Cultural Centre project
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Check out the recommended pre-reading list