Decolonising Approaches to Designing with Children: FutureBNE Water Security Challenge

Bec Barnett, Tristan Schultz


This paper is a case study of the design and facilitation, undertaken by our practice, of Brisbane, Australia’s largest one-day educational event, the FutureBNE Water Security Challenge, held in both 2016 and 2017. 11- to 12-year-old students were asked to design ideas to secure Brisbane’s water supply with the understanding that this will be under threat over the coming century due to mounting future challenges.

Our objective was to give participating students the experience of and power to design ontologically, with design ideas that comprehend the complexity of these future challenges. Key to the success of the event was the ability to give participating students the power to design thoughtful and relevant outcomes. This paper explores how, through design, power was inscribed in the project: empowering children to recognise their power as social change agents, the power inherent in the privilege of their geopolitical location and the power inherent in the geographical unsettlement of their region.

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