Connection to Country centred design

25 June 2020

This month's edition of The Living Network spotlights Reconciliation Week earlier this month (27 May-3 June) and the rise of yet another defining moment of 2020 with the propulsion of the Black Lives Matter movement – and along with it, a range of social, cultural and political issues being brought to the fore for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) around the world.

So how can we begin to consider and address some of these issues within the urban greening space?

The inclusion of Indigenous voices in architectural practice is one place to start, as explored in an insightful discussion between Dillon Kombumerri, principal architect for the Government Architect NSW; Carroll Go-Sam, expert on Indigenous architecture at the University of Queensland; and Sarah Lynn Rees of Clements Burrows Architects, in a recent Architecture and Design feature.

In this edited excerpt, Kombumerri explains that when it comes to engaging with Indigneous principles and concepts in urban design, connecting to Country – rather than being overwhelmed by thousands of years of culture and history – is a great way to begin. By doing so, you give space to connect meaningfully with the process and the place, rather than simply the final outcome.

A shining beacon of integrating indigenous knowledge, collaborative design and permaculture is of course Yerrabingin, the world’s first Indigenous rooftop farm for urban food production in South Eveleigh, Sydney.

We caught up with Christian Hampson, Yerrabingin’s co-founder and CEO, to find out how the team pivoted their Reconciliation Week activities this year. With COVID-19 restrictions forcing the closure of the space to the public, Yerrabingin shifted to hosting virtual tours of the native rooftop farm and the new cultural landscape garden via Zoom sessions, which have been hugely popular.

The move has meant Yerrabingin has been able to engage a whole new geographical audience in experiencing the innovative space remotely, from all over the country and the world, opening up new opportunities to engage and collaborate.

“We had people from South Australia to Arizona attend our workshops and the tours. The benefit of being able to reach and engage with regional and remote communities across Australia is exciting. We’re able to bring experts in from these places to consult on what we’re doing in the city, and take what we’re doing here back to them – which might help to solve some of the challenges they’re facing. Internationally, it means we can do the same, without needing to be in the one place physically.”

Virtual tours are ongoing, so get in touch to find out more.

Lastly, check out the ‘Designing with Country’ discussion paper recently released from the Government Architect of NSW. The paper presents a series of questions and issues that will help inform a set of Cultural Design Principles and a framework for the government to apply to all built environment projects delivered by the government in the future.
What are your experiences as Indigenous and non-Indigenous practitioners working with connection to Country as a central design principle? Join the conversation on the Greener Spaces Better Places LinkedIn, or drop us an email at