Ready to stop talking and start doing? Listen.

07 July 2022

Most modern communicators want to authentically engage with First Nations Australians to ensure they are included and represented, but that first step can be hard to find.

In other words, how do we move from good intentions to getting it done?

That was the topic of discussion when I sat down with Peter Kirk, Founder of Campfire X, and Aboriginal owned and led creative solutions company with an impressive list of clients and projects.

We were talking on episode 2 of Boorna-Wangkiny – our webinar series promoting First Nations voices from across the communications industry – to mark the beginning of NAIDOC Week.

A proud Jerrinja man and straight shooter, Kirk set out a strong argument for why lip service isn’t enough, and it’s time for the industry to get moving.

It’s an insight that sits at the heart of Think HQ’s process: Including everyone in the work we do to ensure campaigns resonate with the full breadth or our diverse community.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed on where to begin, don’t worry. Here’s the key lessons from the conversation:


We must work to make the industry more inclusive

Of the 200,000+ people in the advertising industry, less than one per cent identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and it’s hard to get in without coming up through the traditional pathways, networks or relationships. Cost, resources and support also through up barrier to Indigenous access.

There is ample evidence of the benefits of having a diverse workforce, and this is a clear reminder of the need to work to unpick the structures that have built up to create a barrier to diversity – it won’t just happen.

Similarly, we must chart a new course

The easiest way to run a low-risk project? Build on what’s been proven to work before. But that track record isn’t there for First Nations projects, given how underserved they’ve been by mainstream campaigns. Creatives might not have the portfolio of work, and there may not be templates to plug in and run with. So there will be a higher degree of learning and leaping.

Real co-design rests on trust

If you want to work with First Nations creators and communities, both parties must agree on how you’ll set out together. Asking people to comment on a project that’s almost done, or even joining a process entirely on your terms is unlikely to get the best result, as you’re missing the opportunity to really benefit from the unique cultural perspectives on offer.

We’re in this together

As we seek to embed empathy, understanding and knowledge into the way the communications industry includes people, we must help each other out. Kirk said he was optimistic that the current mood for change would bring results, but that change movements tended to fizzle out without widespread support. First Nations people can’t do this themselves, we all need to pull together.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Step one is, thankfully, easy: Get First Nations people in the room where your project is being scoped and ideas developed. Don’t feel like you need to have the answers – we can plan the path together.


Are you ready to get started? Have a yarn with Think HQ.


Professor Shane Hearn
Head of First Nations Engagement and Communication