Finalist 2021

Jacky Winter Statement of Commitment

The Jacky Winter Group / Emhran Tjapanangka Sultan / Coree Thorpe / Nicola St John

The Jacky Winter Group Statement of Commitment presents respectful steps to listen to and create opportunities for First Nations artists.

In 2020, the Jacky Winter Group commissioned the development of a First Nations led Statement of Commitment, to confront ingrained racism and privilege within the commercial design landscape and develop a set of actionable, useful, and respectful steps towards creating meaningful opportunities for First Nations artists.

This Statement, the first of its kind for the design industry, contributes to the development of Victoria's design sector, in how to strategically adapt business practices, to respectfully listen to and include First Nations voices within ways of working, and develop guidelines to positively impact the future representation and sustainability of First Nations voices.

Design Brief

In the wake of Black Lives Matter, and having no First Nations representation, the Jacky Winter Group (JWG) committed to change how they do business. Acknowledging the privileged position of agents and producers, which directly affects which artists/artworks are legitimised and compensated, led to a questioning of how the representation industry operates.

The challenge was how a representation agency could commit to change. How First Nations people could lead, but not solely be responsible for the process or provide the solution. The JWG needed to first look inward, to reflect and change internally before actively engaging in commercial relationships with First Nations artists.

Additionally, there are currently limited pathways or opportunities for First Nations creatives to engage, participate, or be represented within the design and commercial art industries in Victoria. Our brief questioned how to respectfully and meaningfully increase access and representation of First Nations artists at JWG.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

The JWG began by collaborating with cultural consultant Emrhan Tjapanangka Sultan from Western Arrarnta, Luritja and Kokatha nations, design researcher Nicola St John from RMIT University, and directly alongside First Nations community members, including local communities within Melbourne and across Victoria.

To privilege First Nations voices, draw on First Nations’ ways of working, and protect Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, we worked to create of a Statement of Commitment developed alongside and supported by the First Nations community so it could be sustainable for the long-term future. Moreover, it specifically addresses commitments relevant to the design and representation industry. This was drafted in consultation with local traditional owners and national community representatives. First Nations artist Corey Thorpe then collaborated with the team to bring the Statement to life through the development of an identity and associated design outcomes.

The collaborative process of developing a Statement of Commitment aimed to move beyond ‘engaging’ First Nations artists, peoples, and communities to enhance or ‘add on’ reconciliation objectives to businesses, but for First Nations people to lead organisation change at a strategic and structural level.

A ‘Statement of Commitment’ is an innovative process and document by which businesses and employees can demonstrate their recognition of, and commitment to adopting good practices. Structurally it differs from a more formalised ‘Reconciliation Action Plan’ by self empowering the organisation to think about better ways of engaging with First Nations people with a deeper insight into what they want to achieve. This process is led from recommendations provided directly by First Nations community members.

The purpose of this strategic document is to be a ‘north star’ for JWG as a company, which can be referred back to, hold the business accountable, and be a reference point for future developments and collaborations.

Design Excellence

The JWG ‘Statement of Commitment to the First Nations of Australia’ includes a commitment to increase cultural awareness; build beneficial partnerships with First Nations organisations, communities and individuals; recognise and fully understand professional and social responsibilities to ensure First Nations artists are not exploited in their commercial representation and, as such, raise the status and visibility of First Nations creatives.

The final statement was arrived at through the organic growth of the design process, with short, medium, and long term aims as relationships, trust, and knowledge sharing grows. The purpose is for this living document to be reviewed, referred back to and uphold accountability as the JWG continues to work alongside and support First Nations artists.

By enabling First Nations people to lead the process, core principles of self-determination, reciprocity, and meaningful relationship building were embedded within the development and outcomes of the Statement, which in turn enables this work to be aligned to First Nations values and priorities.

In developing a Statement of Commitment, listening to, and engaging with First Nations people and communities, the JWG has developed a model that can support a transformative shift across industry.

As a public and shared commitment to addressing issues of privilege and diversity, it acts to inspire other businesses to reimagine their own ways of working to be more equitable, inclusive, and safe for First Nations people.

Every business can develop their own Statement of Commitment, based on their own commitment to reconciliation. The nature of a shared commitment encourages iterative and ongoing change and the development of ongoing relationships alongside First Nations people and country.

We hope this Statement is the first of many for Australia’s design community.

Design Innovation

Commercial business operations and strategic decision making within the design and commercial art landscape has often been denied to First Nations people. While an Indigenous Design Charter has been developed, its focus is to assist non-Indigenous designers engage with First Nations People.

We wanted to reimagine this relationship, to focus on creating spaces where First Nations people could lead and engage on their own terms. For the JWG, this meant firstly addressing issues of voice within their own business and wider industry, to understand the importance of sovereignty and self-determination and what this meant in the context of artist representation.

We believe this process, in situating the obligations and responsibilities to address structural racism, and to internally reflect on current practices is an imperative first step for changing industry practice. The onus here for businesses to support the development of First Nations led commercial practices, structures, and ways of working to offer safe and accessible pathways to representation.

A public facing Statement of Commitment sends a clear message to the design industry that we cannot continue silencing or denying First Nations voices in the way we do business in Australia.

The sharing of this statement also works to raise the visibility of First Nations artists, with Gunnai, Yorta Yorta, Gunditjmara and Wurundjeri artist Corey Thorpe developing the visual identity for the Statement, and acknowledges the significant knowledge and creative practice they bring to Australia’s commercial design industries.

Design Impact

Through this work, the JWG recognised their power, platform, and responsibility to reframe representation and be a stronger voice within industry—reflecting the necessary obligation of design businesses to educate themselves, scrutinise their practices, dismantle structural racism, and be held accountable for their influence.

The Statement enabled a meaningful way to move forward, by first knowing and understanding how commercial spaces have been harmful to or silenced First Nations people, before working together to create meaningful and transformative change and develop culturally safe spaces for First Nations people to access and participate on their own terms.

The development of the statement has increased the cultural awareness of all staff working at the JWG and enabled them to firstly unpack and interrogate accepted practices, to be then able to begin dialogues and build relational and respectful relationships with First Nations artists into the future.

For First Nations artists and broader community, it signals an important step in prioritising First Nations leadership and cultural safety within the creative industries, to be able to hold businesses accountable to addressing change, and to walk together in respectful collaboration, knowledge sharing, and capacity building for all stakeholders involved.

The impact of this work therefore lies not only within the JWG, or the inclusion of more First Nations artists and designers within commercial settings, but to the wider design industry in interrogating systemic racism, access and inclusion. It is hoped this Statement inspires others to reflect on and commit to changing the way they do business.

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