Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Protection
Co-Design Workshop

Co-Design Workshop

On Thursday, 7 and Friday, 8 April 2022, the National Native Title Council, Native Title Services Goldfields, South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, and Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation hosted an online workshop, bringing together Traditional Owners, government and industry representatives, heritage professionals and co-design experts to discuss a ‘co-design’ approach specific to the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 (WA) (ACH Act).

The full report detailing outcomes of the workshop can be viewed here.

Further, several questions directed to WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Hon. Dr Tony Buti MLA, raised during the workshop and shared with him following the event, are summarised here. You can read the response provided by Minister Buti here.

Day One was for WA Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) and WA Alliance organisations only. Traditional Owner representatives from WA PBCs and WA Alliance organisations (and their nominated support staff) came together to hear from co-design experts, share their stories, and discuss what ‘co-design’ means to them.

Day Two was open to representatives from ALL related interest groups to collaborate and identify a way forward. Traditional Owners were joined by representatives of other interest groups impacted by the new heritage laws; endeavouring to find common ground and a way forward, together.

Workshop overview

By hosting this workshop, the event partners endeavoured to create a forum for a broad representation of Aboriginal people from across Western Australia (WA) to learn about both national and international understandings and applications of genuine ‘co-design’, and to consider these principles and approaches to better identify what ‘co-design’ should mean in the context of implementing the ACH Act, and its ongoing review.

Both days of the workshop were chaired by Whadjuk Yued Noongar man, Brendan Moore, and co-facilitated by Ballardong-Whadjuk Noongar maarman, Bill Bennell, and Yawuru woman, Mandy Gadsdon.

To inform discussions, the following presentations were made:

  • Dr Christopher Kueh, Edith Cowan University (Days One and Two) – presenting on how co-design offers the potential for transformative decision-making, to empower those who are most affected by those decisions. Click here to view.
  • Kado Muir, Ngalia Traditional Owner, and NNTC Chair (Day One) – discussing the approach being undertaken through a partnership between the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, formed to modernise cultural heritage protection laws at the federal level. Click here to view.
  • WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Hon. Dr Tony Buti MLA (Day Two) – providing a status update on the State Government’s work surrounding introduction of the ACH Act and its implementation, and taking questions from the (virtual) floor.

The intended objective of the workshop was to have an Aboriginal-led conversation with other relevant stakeholders about what ‘co-design’ should look like, and what it means to them.

Hence, a key aspect of the workshop was to explore shared understandings of what ‘co-design’ is (and what it is not).

To help guide these discussions, following the presentations on each day, workshop participants were asked to consider and provide ideas and input in response to several framing questions. For example:

  • What are key elements of a genuine co-design approach that must be incorporated for this process?
  • What are the desired outcomes for this co-designed approach?
  • Who should be involved?
  • Who would lead, own, and implement the co-design process (or aspects of it)?
  • Resources required.

A media statement about the workshop outcomes can be found here.

What is ‘co-design’?

Drawing from best practice approaches undertaken elsewhere, we know that ‘consultation’ does not equate to ‘co-design’; legitimate co-design processes require continual collaboration and improvement, and ensuring the right stakeholders are involved.

The main purpose of co-design is to generate meaningful dialogues among all stakeholders, and to give the people who are most affected by the problems that we seek to solve a primary role in solving them.

Co-design is not simply about designing innovative services, products or policies. It is about prioritising the stories of those people that those services, products or policies will serve – at every stage of the design process.

Therefore, if genuine co-design is to be achieved, the ‘Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Protection Co-Design Workshop’ should be the first important step in a far longer-term endeavour.


Who hosted the workshop?

This workshop was co-presented by the National Native Title Council and members from the WA Alliance of Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers (the WA Alliance): Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal CorporationSouth West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council , and Native Title Services Goldfields.  It forms part of our broader awareness-raising regarding Aboriginal cultural heritage protection.

Who was invited to participate?

Invitations to the workshop were shared with WA Traditional Owners care of their Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers and PBCs.

Other invited interest groups included:

  • other organisations/alliances with a focus on Aboriginal cultural heritage protection;
  • government representatives, including ministers, senators, departmental staff, and members of the newly formed ‘Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Reference Group’;
  • industry peak bodies and resource companies, e.g. the Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA (CME WA), Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA), Amalgamated Prospectors & Leaseholders Association of WA (APLA), Rio Tinto, BHP, FMG, etc.;
  • professional associations working with Aboriginal cultural heritage, including the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. (AACAI) WA Chapter, and the Anthropological Society of WA (ASWA); and
  • investment sector peak bodies and companies, including the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA), Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA), HESTA, Australian Ethical Investment, Perpetual, etc.


The event partners acknowledge the Traditional Owners and custodians of Country throughout Australia, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to the people, cultures, and Elders past, present and emerging.

We thank the Australian Government, through the National Indigenous Australians Agency, for their support in delivering this event.