For 3 months or so, we have been adding Indigenous place names to our address labels. Coffee is still going out to people across Australia but there is now a little line below the suburb name which says something like 'Gadigal & Bidjigal Country'.
It wasn’t a big change for us. When we pack your coffee, we do a little research and type it in. It may not be a big change for you either, another line in the address format is easy to miss. But small tweaks like this do have the potential to make fundamental change when done at scale.
Imagine if every package we ever received recognised the Indigenous country. We’d be connecting with First Nation cultures, languages and places everyday. We begin to understand the fact that our homes in Chippendale stand on Gadigal country, that an office in St Kilda is also Euro-Yroke country and that our grandma in Wollongong lives on Dharawal country. Through this simple act, Indigenous culture starts to become part of the Australian vernacular, part of our day to day.
People of the internet may call another line in the address virtue signalling, marketing spin or tokenistic. They might be right. We don't have the brains or authority to argue with them. But we do believe this is a tiny, but effective step in the right direction (one of the many, many steps that need to be made).
So how do you do the same thing?
- Do some research. Search something like 'Chippendale, Indigenous country'. Compare your sources. Indigenous led-organisations are the best bet. Local council sites can be useful too.
It is important to note that Indigenous country may not take a format you are used to. It’s not straight lines on a map. The boundaries are rivers, mountain ranges and valleys. There are areas which are contested, small groups within big groups, big groups within nations. You need to be sensitive to this and do your best in finding the correct one. Compare the information you have found to the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia. This gives a great overview of Indigenous groups across our country.
- Note all of this information down somewhere (we use a big spreadsheet and hope that over time, it will become a database we can refer to when sending our parcels).
- Use the Indigenous place name all the time. When you order with us, use the optional Address Line 2 box and we will enter that into Sendle. If you use Aus Post, read their tutorial here. If there is no place, just use the ‘Company Name’ field.
Early on we connected with Rach from place_names_in_addresses who has been championing the campaign to get Indigenous place names included on all address forms. Follow her on Instagram, she’s awesome.
Frustratingly, something like this still requires retrofitting. Squeezing an Indigenous place name somewhere between ‘Unit Number’ and ‘Company Name’ is not a long-term solution. Indigenous culture deserves to be at the very heart of Australian culture. Place names and beyond, it should never be an after-thought or an ad-hoc addition.
So, Auspost, Sendle, DHL, all you big dogs out there. It’s time to show us you can bite as well as bark. Big organisations wield incredible power because they are the ones that create and implement the systems that we work within. And what about the biggest of them all? The great dane of all place names?
By NAIDOC Week 2021, we want to be able to search 'Gadigal country' and see the boundaries, notes and information on the map, just the same as if we were to search 'Sydney'. We're obviously not the ones to consult on this - there are plenty of academics, organisations and most importantly First Nations led groups that can help you get there - but we look forward to the day it happens. So, listen to them and get moving.
Always was, always will be.
Written by Digby Ayton & Bri Kerr. Both white Australians who grew up on Mouhenneener country, Tasmania and Ngarigo country, Cooma. Digby is passionate about the change that comes with redesigning ordinary things. Bri is studying Human Rights at the University of Sydney. The views expressed here are theirs, but also the views of Kua. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any ideas, thoughts or concerns. We’re all ears.