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Innovation Festival follows a strong Indigenous theme

  • Innovation Festival follows strong Indigenous theme

About the entity

Isle Utilities
Innovation consultancy specialising in the development and commercialisation of emerging technologies in the water & environmental sectors.


Sydney Water’s Innovation Festival, to be held on 18-20 October, is about caring for country, customers, community and people.

Veronica Murphy, First Nation’s Inclusion Specialist at Sydney Water said that it was important to Sydney Water to host a Festival that was inclusive and innovative.

“This is impossible to do without acknowledging the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first engineers in this country. In line with Sydney Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan, the Festival will foster opportunities for deep listening with the aim of learning from and amplifying the voices of Aboriginal peoples.”

Dr Alex Cech, Chief Technology Officer at Isle Utilities Asia Pacific, the Delivery Partner of the Festival, further stated that there is an incredible opportunity to blend Aboriginal traditional knowledge with western science to find innovative ways to better manage our waterways and protect the environment. Time and again in western civilisation we see that the answers we are seeking are already there, we just haven’t been observant or listened well enough.

“We felt it fitting to incorporate Indigenous elements into the Sydney Water Innovation Festival logo and commissioned aboriginal designer Nikita Ridgeway, the Founder and Director of Boss Lady Design and Communications to incorporate First Nation elements into the design.”

Nikita Ridgeway said “when I first spoke with Alex Cech, I was trying to get an understanding of the storyline behind the Festival and the Festival organisers wanted to include more about the First Nation’s perspective of water, given that Sydney has a very rich history of Aboriginal culture from the Tank Stream and the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

“I wanted to reflect this history, in retrospect, in the design, but while the original logo design that was given to me was very modern, detailed, beautiful, bright and colourful, I wanted to give something that was going to balance and compliment that with simple logos and a simple statement that would represent water and community, because while the Festival is based around water itself and a conversation over land and water, it’s also a chance to bring together community as well.

“I’ve done that in the reflection in the logo artwork.

“In the original artwork there was a symbol of fireworks and I integrated these with an Indigenous design to represent community. It has a good balance of both cultures where fireworks represent a celebration of people coming together; it’s a celebration of communities actually coming together too. The design has both a modern aspect and a traditional aspect.

“On the bottom of the logo I have created symbols that represent water holes. This represents the connection between water and areas and is a representation of the water journey between Sydney Water and everybody coming in to attend the Festival.

“At the top of the logo I have a symbol for water, rivers and waterways.

“I didn’t want to go too overtly overboard with Indigenous designs, because while the original logo artwork was very busy, having a balance was key. Having a First Nation’s perspective, while it was very simplified, tells a bigger story.

“The adaptation of traditional artwork to a modern convention is open to the interpretations of many, many people. Each of those symbols, while they are community symbols available in the artwork, leads to a conversation as to ‘why is community important?’

“Community is vitally important to Aboriginal people because it forms the basis for which we care for one-another; it’s the basis in which we continue culture.

“Water and land are important; they are vital to our community because, one, they sustain us as human beings but they also sustain our cultural capacity as well, because without connection to land we don’t have connection to culture and we don’t have connection to self.

“Discussions around land and water are vitally important to Aboriginal people. It is also that connection to ‘song line’ and ‘song line’ is a connection to ‘the dreaming’; that’s the basis of indigenous personal identity as well. This is why we are so glad to have a First Nation’s lens and voice in events like the Sydney Water Innovation Festival.

“Indigenous people use water to practice culture, to go fishing, for ceremony. It’s difficult to explain the connection that an indigenous person has to land. It’s a spiritual connection and while in the past in Australia history we haven’t had the ability to have a voice, it’s great that we now do and that we are able to share that lived experience of why land is so important to us; why access to water is so important – it’s the accessibility; the ability to work and adapting culture to modern ways of working in life and society, while we still get to practice Indigenous culture.

“We are still able to work within the bounds of working with land in a modern convention. Working with Sydney Water and working with large festivals like this to talk about these types of topics is a significant step forward.

“Sydney Harbour has a wealth of history of interaction between indigenous and non-Indigenous people and you have the Tank Stream (the colony’s original water source). All of the buildings have been built around Sydney Harbour, but very few Sydneysiders realise that the Tank Stream runs right underneath the city. Many Aboriginal people used to congregate at the Tank Stream and around the Harbour and the Tank Stream has a rich history.

“It think that it’s really good to acknowledge the past and where we’ve been and what we’ve been through and to acknowledge where we are and where we’re going in the future with regards to water.

“People always gravitate towards water; it’s soothing; it’s beautiful and it’s a place in Sydney where it is internationally known to bring people together.

“It’s also great to get people to talk about the First Nation’s perspective and how Sydneysiders and Australians are bringing people together at Circular Quay for the Festival to talk about water what is internationally known; our space of water is what we are identified with – Sydney Harbour.

“Aboriginal culture has had to adapt to a modern society and it just goes to show our strength and resilience as people to still keep sharing culture but also being able to adapt to our current environment and that every non-indigenous person attending the Festival has open ears to listen.

“It’s been a great journey as a designer to have been a part of this project and for me it has been great to have been able to lend my skill and my knowledge to something like the Innovation Festival around water which is something I have never had the honour of working with before.

“I’m glad that my design has complimented the logo very well.”

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