Connecting Indigenous students with university through design at Swinburne

Monday 16 July 2018

Marngo design

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

In summary

  • MDF is a tertiary aspiration program that seeks to connect young Indigenous people with university
  • Swinburne’s Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek developed the program to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to explore a future in design
  • Indigenous fashion designer Lyn-Al inspired students with examples of her own artwork

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls from Upper Yarra Secondary College, Gisborne Secondary College, and Korin Gamadji Institute have been given a glimpse into the exciting world of fashion design and communication design career paths through an Indigenous design workshop hosted by Swinburne University of Technology.

The high school students took part in an immersive two-day workshop program, led by Gunnai/Wiradjuri fashion designer and artist Lyn-Al Young, who has recently been appointed as David Jones’ newest emerging artist and design collaborator.

The workshop called “Fasheaming” — fashion and dreaming, focussed on personal empowerment, through culture, design and storytelling. Students created wearable artworks inspired by their own personal story, goals, and dreams. They each hand painted their own silk design and jewellery, then digitised the images to create personal branding and designs. 

Marngo design
A student modelling her own silk design.

Ms Young showed students what they could create with examples of her own work, and shared the opportunities that she has been able to experience by pursuing a creative career.  She has designed the guernseys for Carlton, featured in the 2018 AFL Dreamtime round, as well as an exclusive line of handpainted scarves, called Ngu-ng-ga-dhaany -  meaning carrier in Wiradjuri, for David Jones.

“My Fasheaming program is about working with young people to grow in confidence, cultural identity and set goals to achieve their dreams. It’s a perfect fit to partner with Marngo Designing Futures at Swinburne.” she says.

The workshop was part of the ongoing Marngo Designing Futures program. Coordinated by Swinburne academic Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek, the program helps demystify university life for Indigenous secondary students using art, design and media.

Funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education Participation Program, Marngo Designing Futures enables Indigenous secondary school students to explore life at university through the creation of their own artworks and to learn about career paths in design.

Marngo design
Students filming and documenting their experience at the workshop.  

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.”

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

“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.”

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.