Indigenous Designers Inducted into the Design Hall of Fame

The DIA - Hall of Fame Program celebrates the work of eminent designers and their significant contribution to Australia’s economic development and cultural identity. Since its inception the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) has inducted three Indigenous designers, David Unaipon (Ngarrindjeri), Alison Page (Yuin, Waddi Waddi) and John Moriarty (Yanuwa) with Ros Moriarty.


David Unaipon

David Unaipon

David Unaipon was a preacher, author and inventor born in 1872 at the Point McLeay Mission in South Australia. His father James was the Congregational mission’s first Aboriginal convert. David attended the mission school from the age of seven, leaving in 1885 when he left to become a servant to a master who fostered his growing curiosity in philosophy, science and music. Upon returning to the mission a few years later he continued to read widely, play the organ and honed the skills required in boot making. He was growing frustrated at the lack of work for educated Aborigines at mission settlements, and in the late 1890s he took a job as storeman for an Adelaide bootmaker. By the early 1900’s, Unaipon had begun inventing and developing a number of practical items. He first designed and patented a handpiece for shearing, at the same time becoming preoccupied with discovering the secret of perpetual motion. Over the next few decades, he made patent applications for numerous other inventions – including a multi-radial wheel and a mechanical propulsion device, but over time the patents lapsed.

Unaipon’s fame, sophistication, particular manner of speech and strong Aboriginal identity flew in the face of the stereotypes of the day. His lectures for the Anglican Church stressed improvement and aspiration, and his rhetorical skills were renowned. From the early 1920s he studied Aboriginal mythology and carefully compiled his versions of legends, drawing influence from the classics but also his researches into Egyptology at the South Australian Museum. An important element of his work was speaking in schools on Aboriginal legends and customs, as well as his visions for the future of his people.

Unaipon was a highly influential figure in fighting for Aboriginal rights. In the 1920s and 1930s he influenced government policy on the treatment of Aboriginal people. In 1926 he advocated a model Aboriginal state in an attempt to provide a separate territory for Aboriginal people in central and northern Australia. For half a century he travelled south-eastern Australia, giving evidence to various commissions on Aboriginal issues and giving lectures in churches of various denominations. In 1953 he received a coronation medal, and continued to travel on foot preaching until the age of 87. In his 90s he returned to the mission and continued to work on his inventions until his final days.

Following his death, the national David Unaipon award for Aboriginal writers was established in 1988, and an annual Unaipon lecture was established in Adelaide. His legacy lives on. The Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame recognises the achievements of David Unaipon.



Alison Page:  Image courtesy of NADA

Alison Page: Image courtesy of NADA

Alison Page is an award winning creative at the forefront of contemporary Australian Aboriginal design. As a descendent of the Walbanga and Wadi Wadi people of the Yuin nation, she champions the creative expression of Aboriginal identity. After growing up in Coffs Harbour in northern NSW, she went on to study at the University of Technology, Sydney. Post-graduation, she searched for a way to utilise her skills in the most meaningful way possible; to create interiors that had a real connection to the environment and the people who used them.

She worked as an associate of the Merrima Aboriginal Design Unit from 1995-1999, an architectural practice in the Government’s Architects Office in Sydney. Merrima is staffed by Indigenous people and is committed to promoting self-determination for Aboriginal people by assisting them to express their culture through the built environments they live in. For this reason they also believe in maximum community involvement in the design, construction and management of all projects.

One of the most important projects Page has worked on is the Wilcannia Hospital redevelopment northwest of Sydney. Its colonial structure was problematic for the Aboriginal people because they felt they were turning their backs on the Darling River, a sacred source of life for their people. Page was able to successfully weigh up the needs of the client and the needs of the government, leading to compromises and resolutions required to complete the project.

From the year 2000 to 2008 Page ran her own design practice. She worked as a consultant on an impressive range of projects including designing interiors for public buildings, exhibition spaces for museums, the Opening Ceremony for the Adelaide Festival of the Arts and the Bayagul Indigenous gallery at the Powerhouse Museum. Page was also a design judge on the ABC program The New Inventors for eight years.

She feels most rewarded by being involved in projects that showcase the underlying psychology of the buildings, and that hold a lot of meaning and importance for the community who are going to use them. Her ultimate goal is to design meaningful spaces that reflect the cultural identity of the people for whom they are designed.

Page has received a number of awards during the course of her career including the Australian Jewellery Design Award for an Indigenous range of bespoke high end jewellery called Diamond Dreaming, and the International Federation of Interior Architects Contribution to the Design environment with an emphasis on social awareness and responsibility.

In recent years, Page has entered into a collaboration with Cinematographer Nik Lachajczak called zakpage, a project aiming to converge film with the built environment to create place-based cultural narratives for installation.

She was the founder and Creative Director for the National Aboriginal Design Agency from 2012-2014, and is currently on the board of directors for the Indigenous Land Corporation, an independent authority of the Australian government assisting Indigenous people to acquire and manage land to achieve economic, social and cultural benefits. Page is also currently the Chairperson of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern.

The Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame recognises the achievements of Alison Page.



John and Ros Moriarty:  Photo: Jacky Ghossein

John and Ros Moriarty: Photo: Jacky Ghossein

John Moriarty and Ros Moriarty co-founded Jumbana Group in 1983, an Australian Indigenous design and strategy company. After establishing in Adelaide, they moved the studio to Sydney in 1997, and have built significant business relationships domestically and internationally inclusive of: Qantas; Nespresso; Bank of America; Football Federation Australia; U2; Sydney Opera House; Accor Hotels; Stockland Corporation; and Village Roadshow.

The Group, which celebrated 30 years in 2013, comprises a contemporary design studio – Balarinji, and the Indigenous communications and facilitation practice, Balarinji Consulting. Its range of design and related services include graphic design, interpretive and wayfinding design, artist engagement, event collateral and merchandise, public art, web, visual effects and animation. Industry relations, community engagement and government relations are other key areas.

John Moriarty AM is a full member of the Yanyuwa people of his birthplace, Borroloola, Northern Territory. He is honorary chairman and co-founder of the Jumbana Group, and co-founder of the company’s not-for-profit Nangala Project. John attained a Bachelor of Arts from Flinders University and is a Churchill Fellow. He has previously served on many boards – namely - the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, the National Indigenous Council, the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, the Australian International Cultural Committee, the Northern Territory Tourist Commission and South Australian Museum. John is also a former chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council and the National Aboriginal Sports Corporation of Australia, and a former deputy chair of Indigenous Business Australia.

Ros Moriarty heads the Jumbana Group, is creative director of Balarinji Studio and co-founder of Nangala Project. After attaining a Bachelor of Arts from the Australian National University, Ros worked as a journalist with Radio Australia and held senior positions with the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Australian Volunteers Abroad. Ros has also served on numerous boards including: the Council of the National Gallery of Australia, Australian Major Events, the Council of the Australian Academy of Design, and the Board of the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin. She was inducted into the Australian Business Women’s Hall of Fame in 1999 and was a finalist in the 2012 NSW Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

John and Ros who are also award-winning authors, have long advocated for Indigenous rights and Indigenous arts. The Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame recognises the achievements of John Moriarty and Ros Moriarty.

A New Dawn for a Geelong Meeting Place

A New Dawn for a Geelong Meeting Place

Was. Is. Always: South to North. On Route to an  International Indigenous Design Charter  (Greenland, Sweden, Denmark)

Was. Is. Always: South to North. On Route to an International Indigenous Design Charter (Greenland, Sweden, Denmark)