On the 12th and 13th of July, I had the pleasure of attending the Two Way Planning, Design & Place workshop run by Dungutti woman Carol Vale, and Strategic Planner Michelle Howard. Carol and Michelle embody their key message – that Indigenous and Western peoples and systems should work together to create better planning, design, social and environmental outcomes.
The reality of Australia’s settler-colonial history is that multiple Indigenous sovereignties co-exist with the Crown, meaning each place is known and experienced by multiple ontologies. Historically, and to some extent currently, mainstream discourse positions these two as a duality that cannot meet. However, to heal as a nation and move forward into a collaborative and mutually beneficial space, these two systems must come together. This message is central to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and to Two Way Planning.
We all live in, experience and care for this place now known as Australia and this concept of place can act as the instigator for finding common ground. Planners and practitioners in the property and development industry have an important part to play.
The July workshop began with group activities that asked attendees to think about how they connect to place. We soon left behind the theoretical and methodological perspective we usually take as planners and urban designers, as we asked ourselves: “what does my favourite place smell like, sound like and feel like?” The message was clear: as built form professionals, we need less thinking about place and more feeling.
The rest of the workshop explored the journey from ‘Place Taking, to Place Making, to Place Keeping.’
While much Place Taking occurred when the British declared this land Terra Nullius, this practice remains ongoing. Traditionally, planning’s foundations lie in Place Taking. With the Albanese government committing to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, there is now an added imperative for practitioners to move beyond this practice. I am heartened to see so many planners working to rectify this, including my co-participants of the workshop.
The next step, Place Making, is often what we do as planners, urban designers, architects, and landscape architects. We can make great places, but they will never be truly of and for this country if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aren’t involved in the process.
Place Keeping is the ultimate goal that the Two Way approach aims at guiding us toward. Place Keeping honours and includes Indigenous voices. It is informed by dialogue and lived experiences, and emerges through collaboration. Good Place Keeping will also deliver social, cultural, economic, and environmental dividends for all, including Indigenous peoples.
The workshop went on to explore ways to collaborate fairly. As many of us are aware, Traditional Owner groups and Indigenous design professionals are overworked and over-burdened. My contribution to collaboration is to read widely and listen deeply. As a Westerner descendant of convicts of the Second Fleet and more recently, British migrants, courses such as Two Way Planning, Design & Place, demonstrate how I can contribute.
This session further empowered me to advocate for industry-wide change, have discussions with colleagues and clients, and work collaboratively with other like-minded professionals to explore further opportunities. This reflection piece is my first step.
Carol and Michelle will be travelling around Australia to teach their Two Ways approach and I encourage all to attend, with details becoming available shortly.