Imperfect circularity: From Cape York to Brisbane

Project dates: 2022

At the beginning of October, A/Prof Tiziana Ferrero-Regis and Dr Sal Edwards engaged with the Aurukun Justice Group (AJG) in a co-design project for the design and manufacturing of a uniform (shirt)  celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the local Justice Group. Aurukun is a Far North Queensland remote Aboriginal community, home to the Wik People. The AJG was founded in 1997 as part of the establishment of Community Justice Groups to drive community solutions to strengthen community and families’ relations and ensure cultural continuity. An important aspect of culture preservation is its expression and representation. Through a process of co-design, the uniform represents the community culture through symbols and totems on the shirt. This is an example of circular practices incorporating Aboriginal culture and through distributed networks of localised manufacturing.

The project was based on one co-design workshop conducted as fieldwork, and a series of online consultation for feedback on the design. The second phase consisted in the manufacturing of the uniform. In the past, the AJG used product developers, which looked after the design, fabric choice and manufacturing of the shirt. They were manufactured in China, with a polyester textile with a thick weave which does not suit Aurukun climate of 36-38 degrees for many months. Illustrations were from stock Aboriginal design, such as dots and the colours of Aboriginal flag, black, red and yellow, with the addition of a few stylised totems.

For the final step, we used local manufacturing, which provided an example of sustainable local production and circular practices. Manufacturing took place in the Greater Brisbane Region, with digital print and cut executed by a Brisbane-based cycling kits manufacturer. Sewing was executed in the Gold Coast, about 50 kilometres south of Brisbane. The “imperfect” in the title refers to the polyester used in the manufacturing, which is recycled and comes from Taiwan.

This project offers a prototype for the transition to a circular economy, and a proof of concept which has demonstrated a partial systemic change within procurement, manufacturing and recycling, and that can be scaled up to a permanent circular strategy for procurement. Textile recycling and local manufacturing are central elements of circularity. Through co-design and local manufacturing, we have facilitated a circular commercial collaboration between an Indigenous community and the garment manufacturer that is also engaged with local recyclers for their off-cuts. The research project has also provided an opportunity to deliver benefit to Aurukun and Wik people through the representation of Wik culture in design and building pride in the operation of the AJG, which plays an important role in the Aurukun community.

We would like to thank the Aurukun participants, and the Centre for Justice at the Queensland University of Technology for providing funding for this project.

Funding / Grants

  • Centre for Justice (2022)

Chief Investigators