Dr Peter West
Peter West is a lecturer in RMIT's School of Design. Peter's research and teaching practice explores the ways in which Western design is practiced lawfully, in response to Indigenous sovereignty.
Peter West is a non-Indigenous cis-gendered white man and a visitor on unceded Indigenous lands. West's design practice, research and teaching is an exploration of the ways in which design is situated by Indigenous sovereignty.
Peter's research brings together his industry background in creative communication strategy, branding and art direction which is challenged and contoured through the application of queer and critical race and Indigeneity theory. West research and its application is focused on supporting non-Indigenous designers into understanding their obligation to practice design in relation to Indigenous sovereignties. West is designing the skills base for non-Indigenous people and (Industry) organisational cultures to be active in their responsibilities as positioned by Indigenous sovereignties.
As West's teaching and research work is conducted on Kulin country this is positioned in response to the sovereign practice of Womin Djeka and in active acknowledgment of being in relation to Indigenous knowledge systems. This is to design lawfully on country.
From 2014-17 West was a named Partner Investigator on Melbourne School of Government cluster grant: Indigenous Nation Building: Theory, Practice and its Emergence in Australia's Public Policy Discourse.
From 2014-18 West was a named Research Assistant on the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant (LP140100376: Indigenous nationhood in the Absence of Recognition: Self-governance Insights and Strategies From Three Aboriginal Communities).
In collaboration with three Aboriginal communities in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales that are differentially engaged in Indigenous governance processes, the Indigenous Nation Building theory project aims to identify innovation in community governance, test the usefulness of Australian governance assessment tools, and foster an Indigenous Australian and global network to share successful strategies. In doing so, the project contributes to an emerging theory of Indigenous Nation Building. West exited these research grants with an extensive body of design based projects and design methods as influenced by engagement with each Indigenous nation as sovereigns.
As co-lead of Reconciliation in the School of Design Peter is involved in the strategic planning of reconciliation across the school. This involves bringing both teaching and research practices (processes) into an active (named/demonstrated) relationship to Indigenous sovereignties.
Peter is also involved in a number of research projects with Indigenous Nations (communities) as part of the ARC Linkage project; Talking Country which continues to inform his research. Peter has also led a Work Integrated Learning Honours Studio program that supported design students into practical with Industry clients.
Peter's research explores how the (non-Indigenous) individual, the design practitioner and the design discipline can embed a practice of responding to Indigenous sovereignty and therefore be in a sovereign relationship. Indigenous sovereignty poses particular challenges to the Western design discipline. This leads West into an examination of the consumptive, transactional nature of Western Eurocentric design, through Critical Race, Whiteness and Indigeneity theory and Queer theory. These theoretical frameworks guide West into exploration of the boundedness of the Western knowledge systems.
This research is also directed toward the development of design scaffolds which support non-Indigenous people into the necessary steps of critical self-reflection and applied activity required to demonstrate and meet their obligation into the sovereign relationship.
Peter has published in a number of Design journals as both a co-author and solo author. These are listed in the publication section.
Peter West's industry experience includes working as both an art director, copywriter and communications strategist at multinational advertising agencies; servicing both retail and social issue communication objectives.
Currently West is engaged in behavioural (and systems) change with external organisations seeking to embed reconciliation as a priority for all staff.
- West, P. (2020). Desiging in Response to Indigenous Sovereignties In: Proceedings of the Conference ServDes.2020 Tensions Paradoxes Plurality, Melbourne, Australia, 2-5 February 2021
- West, P. (2019). ‘The Whitemosphere’: Unsettling Western design epistemes through Indigenous sovereignty and the racialized logics of whiteness In: Proceedings of the 2019 Australian Council of Art and Design Conference: Engagement (ACUADS 2019), Melbourne, Australia, 31 October – 1 November 2019
- Akama, Y.,Evans, D.,Keen, S.,McMillan, F.,McMillan, M.,West, P. (2017). Designing digital and creative scaffolds to strengthen Indigenous nations: being Wiradjuri by practicing sovereignty In: Digital Creativity, 28, 58 - 72
- Akama, Y.,Keen, S.,West, P. (2016). Speculative design and heterogeneity in indigenous nation building In: Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2016), Brisbane, Australia, 4-8 June 2016
- West, P.,Akama, Y.,McMillan, M. (2016). "I was worried about insulting Indigenous communities with my designs": shifting from fear to recognition to create a meeting place of sovereigns In: Proceedings of the 2016 Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools Annual Conference, Brisbane, Australia, 29-30 September 2016
- Talking Country: Sharing Indigenous stories of place through mobile media. Funded by: ARC Linkage Project Grants 2018 from (2020 to 2024)
- Designing for Indigenous cultural sustainability. Funded by: Australia Council University Art and Design Schools Grant 2016 from (2016 to 2017)
2 PhD Current Supervisions