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Alice Springs: Australia's Red Heartland 

design research

Design Research 

The Context


Alice Springs (known as Mparntwe to the Arrernte people) is a remote town located in the central desert of Australia. Alice holds immense beauty with its picturesque blue skies, sacred white bark gumtrees, and gorgeous red sand; yet the ugly impacts of colonisation on the Indigenous Aboriginal community are still visible today. The brutal costs, deep rifts, and complicated challenges birthed from white settlement 138 years ago expresses itself within the Aboriginal community as higher levels of alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence, crime, marginalisation and segregation. 

The Challenge


Through Human-Centred Design Research methods, discover meaningful insights into how government policy and funding can be better targeted and spent to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and wellbeing.

The Solution

Research methods:

  • Interviews - Interviews were conducted with local Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members of Alice Springs to gain knowledge of context, opinions, and challenges. Elders, adults, teachers, activists and social workers were among those who shared their perspectives. 

  • Immersion -  Spending time with people to get an understanding of how their days play out, what issues arise most often, and how the sociopolitical context impacts them and their decision-making. 

Key takeaways:

  • There is a strong correlation between low levels of educational participation and attainment, and a high rate of Indigenous juveniles becoming involved with the criminal justice system. Increasing the number of Indigenous teachers in schools of Alice Springs, and incorporating Indigenous culture and language can help increase an affiliation with schools, create role models, bring about placemaking, and help build a healthy sense of identity for Indigenous youth.

  • Social workers, support workers, and volunteers are integral forces for positive change, and it is more common than not for them to arrive in Alice Springs, stay for a few months, experience burn-out, and leave. This unreliable and unsustainable pattern undermines the cohesion of the social system, can slow down progress, and decreases social capital. Creating a service or product to educate on self-care and the signs of burnout, provide information and leads to supportive counselling, and what to expect in their helping role before they initiate their work may be key to a successful and sustainable system. 

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