Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Design & Technologies

In May 2017, DATTA Vic's annual conference celebrated the theme of 60,000 Years of Australian Design & Technologies.  

Following this event, DATTA Vic is honoured to work with our partners to collect and develop resources, which can be used by Design & Technologies teachers to deliver the VCAA's cross-curricular priority of Learning about Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures.

If any teachers have ATSI resources that they'd like to share, send them to Laura at pl@datta.vic.edu.au.

Note - some of the following resources and links contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. 

Image credit  - YVONNE KOOLMATRIE / Eel traps, 2008 /  installation view, Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide, 2009 / woven sedge / dimensions 235 x 44 x 8 cm and 152 x 39 x 8 cm / Courtesy of the University of South Australia Art Collection, Adelaide / photography: Sam Noonan / Courtesy of the artist and Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney

Learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History and Cultures - VCAA Reources

Learning about the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures is embedded in all curriculum areas of the Victorian Curriculum F–10. The VCAA have produced a set of guidelines, covering protocols and curriculum mapping, including Design & Technologies.

Koorie Teaching Resources for the DET

The Department of Education and Training have a wide range of Koorie Teaching Resources available on their website. They also employ Koorie Education Support Officers who work with First Nations families in schools. Click HERE for contact details for your own area.

Indigenous Fashion Projects Runway at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week 2021


For the first time ever, Australian Fashion Week 2021 has included a runway show dedicated to the work of First Nations designers. Taking place on Mabo day on Gadigal Country, the show celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers from across Australia, sharing their unique stories, journeys, rich cultural heritage and innovative designs. You can watch the show HERE.

Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council

The Victorian Aboriginal Hertitage Council has an invaluable range of resources on their site, including local Aboriginal Network contactsand recordings of their Caring for Country radio segment, where traditional owners talk about the ways they protect the land and their own cultural heritage.

Aboriginal Victoria 

The Aboriginal Victoria website has lots of useful links, including contacts and a set of fact sheets to download which explore our First Nation's places and objects, including flaked stone tools, grinding stones, middens and scar trees.

Budj Bim Cultural Landscape

image credit: www.standard.net.au/story/5261575/budj-bim-closer-to-eorld-heritage-accolade/ 

In July 2019, Budj Bim Cultural Landscape was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status. DATTA Vic congratulate the traditional owners of the land, the Gunditmara people, who for millennia have managed and cared for "the world's oldest engineering project." We pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging, and aim to learn from their cultural traditions, knowledge, practices and ingenuity. 

Click HERE to read the entire report from UNESCO, and HERE for a Broadsheet article which explains How Budj Bim Became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We highly recommend booking a tour with Leigh Boyer of Budj Bim Tours

With them, you will experience the history of the Gunditjmara people with an expert Indigenous guide and experience a culture that is over 60,000 years old through the remnants of a settled lifestyle, including circular stone dwellings and the remains of Australia's first and largest freshwater stone aquaculture system.

Piinpi - Contemporary Indigenous Fashion at Bendigo Art Gallery

Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion is an exhibition from Bendigo Art Gallery which celebrates Indigenous art, history and culture through the lens of contemporary fashion. It’s the first major survey of contemporary Indigenous Fashion to be undertaken in this country. Runs to 17 Jan 2021.

Krowathunkoolong / Keeping Place

At the Keeping Place in Bairnsdale, visitors  can learn, understand and appreciate the history of the Gunaikurnai people through tours of the museum and view the variety of exhibits ranging from traditional hunting and fighting weapons, to bark canoes, fishing spears and boomerangs.

Bruce Pascoe: Aboriginal Agriculture, Technology and Ingenuity

Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu was published in 2014, and challenged the belief that the First Australians were hunter-gatherers. He introduced us to a complex civilisation that developed and used sophisticated technologies to live and manage the land. ABC EDucation have produced this wonderful digibook that explores and celebrates the ingenuity of the First Australians.

Young Dark Emu - a Truer History by Bruce Pasco

You'll find details about Pascoe's original Dark Emu below, but in June 2019, a version for younger readers was published. Young Dark Emu - a Truer History uses the accounts of early European explorers, colonists and farmers to demand a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for the First Australians.   It explores their use of sophisticated technologies and understanding of the environment and its natural resources - a must-have for any Design & Technologies reading list.

Bruce Pascoe's TEDxSydney Talk

A real history of Aboroginal Australians, the first agriculturists

In this TEDxSydney talk, Indigenous writer and anthologist Bruce Pascoe draws on first-hand accounts from colonial journals to dispel the myth that Aboriginal people were hunters and gatherers and "did nothing with the land that resembled agriculture". In this powerful talk, Pascoe demonstrates a radically different view of Australian history that we all need to know – one that has the potential to change the course of Australians' relationship with the land.

Royal Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens have a great range of Indigenous education resources that link to the D&T curriculum, including class excursions, teacher kits and digital experiences. They explore the traditional owners' connection to the land and explore their use of natureal resources for food, medicine and tools.


Possum Skin Cloaks

Uncle Ivan Couzens at Thunder Point in a possum skin cloak made by his daughter, Vicki, a key figure in the cloak making revival. Photo: Sarah Rhodes

Museums Victoria have published a beautiful account of the history and art of the Possum Skin Cloak. It focuses on the museum's two historical cloaks, which were collected from the Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara peoples in the mid-19th Century, and remain the only known surviving cloaks in the world of their time and place. Alongside these are the stories of two newly-commissioned cloaks, which connect the makers to their ancestors andtell stories both timeless and contemporary through their designs.


Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Gariwerd (the Grampians) brings to life the history and culture of the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung and aboriginal communities of south-western Victoria. They run a great education service which allows students to explore the ways people see Gariwerd and connect with the land. 

The Orb

The Orb is a collection of online multimedia resources designed to assist the teaching of Tasmanian Aboriginal histories and cultures, including design. It reflects the holistic nature of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and the interconnectedness between people, country, culture, identity and the living community.

Stories of Indigenous Engineering by EWB

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represent 2.5% of the Australian population, but just 0.5% of total engineering students.  Engineers Without Borders have developed Stories of Indigenous Engineering to increase diversity in the engineering profession and open our eyes to different knowledge systems and perspectives.

Marngo Designing Futures from Swinburne University

Marngo Designing Futures is an initiative from Swinburne's Centre for Design Innovation, which promotes and enables Indigenous design and innovation.  In partnership with indigenous designers, the program provides fun, hands-on activities and tools for ATSI students to explore a creative future in design framed from Indigenous prespectives.

The Indigenous Perspectives Tuckerbag

The Indigenous Perspectives Tuckerbag is a comprehensive Australian Curriculum resource guide on Aboriginal History, Culture and Country from the Koorie Heritage Trust. The KHT run a range of education programs for schools.  Click HERE for more information.

Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre

Bunjilaka at Melbourne Museum offers a diverse range of exhibitions and learning programs celebrating the complexity and diversity of Australia's First Peoples, including their relationship with the land, food, tools and technologies.  Click HERE for an overview of all their workshops and resources.

2018 Indigenous Design Symposium

July 19 & 20, Melbourne University

Go Back to Where You Came From: Indigenous Design – Past | Present | Future,  was the inaugural Symposium of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP) at the University of Melbourne. Convened by Jefa Greenaway (keynote presenter at our May 2017 conference 60,000 Years of Australian Design & Technologies) this event explored the role of Indigenous design, showcased a range of established local and international First Nations design practitioners across a diversity of disciplines and offered an opportunity to reveal design approaches, which straddle interconnected themes of culture, Country and identity. For the full program, click HERE.

Blak Lives Matter

July 21 - September 30 2018, The Koorie Heritage Trust

Pictured: Marlu Collection 2015 by Nicole Monks. Photograph by Boaz Nothman

This exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust from the 21 July - 30 September showcases contemporary Indigenous design projects, including fashion and product design. Click HERE for details.


Remembering David Unaipon - the Man on the Fifty Dollar Note

Known as the Australian Leonardo da Vinci,  Unaipon was a well-known Indigenous Australian of the Ngarrindjeri people, an inventor, preacher and writer.  He took out 19 provisional patents on his inventions, but could never afford to get any of them fully patented.  Amongst his designs are an anti-gravitational device and a sheep shearing handpiece which was the basis of modern sheep shears.  He also drew-up plans for a helicopter based on the principle of the boomerang.  Click HERE for an article about his life and work from NITV.

The Budj Bim Fish Traps

Click HERE to read the story of the Budj Bim eel traps of the Gunditjmara people of South West Victoria, which in 2019 was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List - the first place to be accespted solely for its Aboriginal heritage.  Budj Bim demonstrates that, rather than living passively off whatever nature provided, the Gunditjmara actively and deliberatley manipulated local water flows and ecologies to engineer a landscape to provide food in a sustainable manner. Click HERE for guided tours and workshops at Budj Bim.

Aboriginal Inventions - 10 Enduring Innovations

Australian Geographic have published this website which focuses on the technologies developed by Aboriginal Australians, including thermoplastic resins, stone tools, bush foods and medicines and toys.  Click HERE to read about them all.

Ngarara Place by Greenaway Architects

Ngarara Place, an Indigenous landscape designed by Greenaway Architects, has opened at RMIT University's city campus.  It is designed to be a visible presence and recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories as connected among the lands of the Kulin Nations.  Click HERE to discover the story behind Jefa Greenaway's beautiful design.

Indigenous Perspectives on Sustainability

Click HERE for a radio broadcast from the ABC on Indigenous perspectives on sustainability, particularly related to land management

Yarra Healing - Sacred Land

This Inquiry Unit for Years 5 & 6 looks at the sustainable practices of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander nations.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe's book Dark Emu argues for a reconsideration of the 'hunter-gatherer' tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. 

Other links

Koorie engagement support officers are employed in each Department of Education and Early Childhood Development regional office and work in partnership with the Koorie education coordinator in each region to support the implementation of the regional plan for the Wannik Education Strategy for Koorie students and early childhood initiatives to improve the health, wellbeing and educational outcomes for Koorie children and young people.  Click HERE for more information

Thanks to The Department of Education & Training's Strategic Partnerships Program for their support for DATTA Vic's Teaching Applied STEM in Design & Technologies initiative