Designers have long asserted the influence of their craft on a social and political level. It can be demonstrated (from Jazz, to Nazism) where a visual aesthetic has offered more than a colour scheme throughout the course of history and where the tone of communication has galvanised a message. In this new era, we as professional image makers and thinkers in Australia should be asking what is broken, and what can we do to fix it? What can designers offer to the betterment of Australian life?
One such area of great importance is white understanding and acceptance of indigenous culture. The huge difficulty that has faced Aboriginal people is in communication. There is a disconnection in language both spoken (heard) and unspoken (seen). This being the result of a violent and guilty past which is tolerated by most westerners with embarrassed forgetfulness and by Aboriginal people with anger and sorrow.
Western designers and artists working in Australia have, in the past, drawn from Aboriginal motifs in proclamation of our independence and individuality from Britain. It plays well for our global identity. However, the presentation of Aboriginal Culture in this way is perhaps just as damaging, given the ongoing national struggle to fully accept and respect the original owners of our country. The plagiarism of indigenous motifs and symbols in this way is simplistic and disrespectful.
Designers today should in all cases present the true sense of what being Australian means, in politically focused messages and – more importantly – in the everyday visual media. It is necessary for this to have within it, an understanding of Aboriginal culture and language. Australian design, fashion, hospitality, entertainment and especially big business should all be open to the recognition of this cultural asset as part of the make up of their visual identity. The result of this would be a collaborative achievement and Australia would benefit for the shared experience, with reconciliation as a natural progression.