In recent years a new buzzword has gained popularity among governments and organisations when discussing how they engage with Indigenous people on their concerns, ‘co-design’.

By definition, co-design means to collaboratively bring together a group of people to make decisions informed by their collective experiences. But in practise, this is not what occurs.

As a result, Indigenous people get the same outcomes as before under the disguise of new inclusive practises, and a better public perception for those businesses and organisations.

Co-design is consultation, rebranded.

When a business or organisation embarks on their co-design journey, they begin by meeting with the appropriate Indigenous leaders and discussing their aspirations to co-design solutions.

It sounds like a great proposition and most Indigenous people would be excited by the opportunity to be part of the solution.

After a few more interactions, it often becomes abundantly clear that the interactions between the business or organisation are just more frequent conversations about what they want. They place a pressure on the Indigenous community to accept and become comfortable with those suggestions.

This may be done by well-intentioned people but evidence shows the only solutions that are sustainable for Indigenous issues are the ones that are community-led and community designed.

The issue with co-design isn’t that it is occurring, it’s that it’s not being implemented in a way that allows co-creation.

Conversations with Indigenous communities should not have a goal of seeking approval or comfort from the community. They should be about having a conversation with the community about how to build solutions that are appropriate and that work for them.

Move away from “can we do…..” towards “how would you suggest we…..”

When Indigenous people are part of the creation process, have all the information and understand the problem they can tap into thousands of years of knowledge to create appropriate, fit-for-purpose solutions that work for everyone.

Denying Indigenous people the opportunity to be part of the creation process is a loss of opportunity to everyone.

If governments and organisations want to do what is right by Indigenous people, they need to move past co-design and begin co-creating alongside Indigenous people.

It is the only authentic pathway towards inclusive solutions to our collective issues.

By Sara Bergmann

Sara Bergmann is a Nyikina and Nyul Nyul woman from the Kimberley