Connecting Indigenous students with university through design at Swinburne

Wednesday 4 October 2017

ATSI girl with canvas painting at MDF

Students were encouraged to create their own artworks inspired by their Indigenous heritage during the sessions.

In summary

  • Marngo Designing Futures Program seeks to connect young Indigenous students with university
  • Students are encouraged to explore career paths in design
  • Indigenous artist Nathan Patterson guides students through the workshop

Secondary students from Melbourne Indigenous Transition School have been given a glimpse into the world of university life through an Aboriginal art and design workshop hosted by Swinburne.

The Marngo Designing Futures (MDF) program was developed by Swinburne academic Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek to help demystify university life for Indigenous secondary students using art, design and media.

Funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education Participation Program, the program enables young Indigenous students to explore life at university though the creation of their own artwork and to learn about career paths in design.

ATSI girl with digital design at MDF

Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek, Swinburne’s Academic Director, External Engagement (Design), says the students are taught about design from a culture-centred perspective.  

“Focusing the workshops on place-based design makes the program relevant for these students. They are taught about design framed from a range of Indigenous perspectives and learn about the outcomes of pursuing a creative career,” she says.

“The program also aims to demystify university and provide the kids with an opportunity to experience what it would be like to study on campus.”

MDF has already proven to be effective in deepening cultural connections and building leadership capacity in young people.

“Three students were recipients of the Marrung Year 12 Scholarship, using their participation in MDF to directly evidence their claims for academic and leadership potential,” Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek says.

“One school has integrated a full time design and technology curriculum after being involved in the program and many schools have reported a direct correlation between participation and class attendance.”

ATSI girls painting at MDF

Guided by Indigenous artist Nathan Patterson, students were encouraged to create their own artworks inspired by their Indigenous heritage during the sessions.

Mr Patterson showed students what they could create with examples of his own work, including Guernseys he designed for Richmond and Essendon featured in the AFL Dreamtime round.

 “It’s great to show the kids how canvas can translate into something real like a footy jumper. It gives them some idea of what a career in design could lead to,” he says.

Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek is working with Bula’bula Art Centre and Ramingining School in East Arnhem Land to provide opportunities for secondary school students to participate in design and media training in the school VET program. 

More broadly, she hopes to expand the program by embedding it in the curriculum in remote Indigenous communities and connecting it with certificate level training courses on offer at Swinburne.

“Swinburne has a successful long-standing trades training program in East Arnhem Land called Doors 2 Jobs, so I have been working closely with that team to combine our efforts in the region.”