More than a word, reconciliation takes action

Alison Wheeler

As we look forward to the forthcoming events celebrating National Reconciliation Week in 2021, now is the time to consider Reconciliation Australia’s theme for 2021: More than a word, reconciliation takes action.

While we seek to educate ourselves both as individuals and collectively, action is vital to facilitate change for the future. 

As architects it is of the highest importance that we recognise the cultures and values of First Australians, and ensure we contribute to implementing considered and purposeful change within our profession.  

We engage with our clients, to understand their culture and history, their site and their needs. In gaining greater understanding and appreciation of local cultural heritage, the spaces and places we design can be enriched with a deeper understanding of the cultures of first Australians.

As part of the design process, we find opportunities to develop a deeper level of understanding by engaging with First Nation Australians to learn first-hand about place, history, culture and language.

For PMDL, our first action was to establish a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), a roadmap to begin our reconciliation journey, with assistance and endorsement from Reconciliation Australia. This started our conversation.

Taking the step to formalise our own role in reconciliation is of great importance to the leadership team of PMDL. We join a growing number of organisations across Australia in developing a RAP, and we greatly appreciate the support and guidance of Reconciliation Australia in developing our framework.

In the midst of COVID, as a team we celebrated the launch of our Reflect RAP in June 2020, following formal endorsement by Reconciliation Australia. A workgroup, selected from across our Sydney and Melbourne studios, and reflecting the diversity of background and experience of our team, has been leading the implementation our RAP in these early stages. 

Our clients and consultants have joined us on this journey, and our projects, our processes and our relationships have become richer as a result.  

Over the course of the last year, we have been meeting with our clients and Traditional Owner groups in a meaningful way on specific projects. These conversations have taught us so much, informed our design, and presented opportunities to find meaningful ways to connect with Country and culture through architecture and design.

A masterplan diagram to showing our respectful approach to follow traditional Aboriginal cultural protocols and practices and assist the institution in ‘Belonging to Country’, through the medium of ‘Meeting Places’.

Throughout the year, not merely on Reconciliation Day and this very significant week, our team respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation in Melbourne, and the Cammeraygal People of North Sydney. We pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

As we continue our journey with our RAP, we are excited and humbled to continue to broaden our understanding, and we reach out to you all to join this path with us.