World’s oldest living culture should be brought into 21st century

Article published in the Sydney Morning Herald – Business Day 9 May 2015 by Ross Larkin

Multi award-winning Aboriginal designer Alison Page says culturally meaningful Australian design is now more important than ever.

Alison Page Source Sydney Morning Herald
Alison Page Source Sydney Morning Herald

“Australia has the world’s oldest living culture,” she says. “We’ve got 40,000 years of pretty ingenious design, so Australian design is actually from the oldest designers in the world. But it needs to be brought into the 21st century. That’s the definition of what a living culture is all about. It doesn’t stay living hidden in books.”

Page, a descendant of the Walbanga​ and Wadi Wadi people of the Yuinnation, is considered a leading force in the Australian design scene at the forefront of contemporary Australian Aboriginal design.

She has founded an interior design studio, completed projects spanning interiors, public art, installations and film and was founding chief executive of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance.

“I feel compelled to do it as an Aboriginal woman,” she says. “I am 40, middle aged, I have a responsibility to strengthen our cultural values and pass them on to young people.”

Much of Page’s work has been in architecture and building design, which she says is the ideal format for instilling meaning into the built environment which surrounds us. “I realised that my heritage, which was really grounded in beautiful cultural values about sustainability and connection to country … the importance of storytelling and of family could all be communicated or expressed through this medium called architecture,” she says.

“There’s huge potential there for cultural narratives to come into our environment. These are the stories and values the world needs to hear now.”

Rather than constantly erecting buildings which have no meaning or artistry, Page says our built environment should be designed with story and purpose and injected with significance.

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