Episode Archive

SCP E289 The Value of First Nations Knowledge in Planning Places and Spaces, with Elle Davidson

Hi #smartcommunity friends! In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have a wonderful conversation with Elle Davidson. Elle is a Balanggarra woman from the East Kimberley and descendant of Captain William Bligh, and describes herself as being caught in the cross-winds of Australia’s history. With a passion to empower the voices of First Nations People, Elle combines her Town Planning and Indigenous Engagement qualifications to shape our places and spaces. In this episode, Elle begins with Acknowledgment of Country, before she tells us about her interesting and unique background as a town planner and current work with her consultancy, Zion Engagement and Planning, as well as her passion for bringing First Nations perspectives to planning. Elle then tells us what drew her into the town planning profession, what a Smart Community means to her, then discusses some of the projects she has been working on including a career highlight working on the Western Sydney aerotropolis project. We then discuss the importance of asking questions and having an open minded approach when working on projects. We finish our chat discussing the emerging trend of First Nations knowledge and the value it can add to projects. As always, we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it!

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Acknowledgement of Country 
  • Elle’s background as a town planner and her current work with her training and consulting company Zion Engagement and Planning 
  • Her passion for bringing First Nations perspectives to planning to empower First Nations voices 
  • What drew Elle to the town planning profession 
  • What a Smart Community means to Elle 
  • Some of the projects Elle has been working and including a career highlight of the Western Sydney aerotropolis project 
  • The importance of asking questions and having an open minded approach to projects 
  • The emerging trends of First Nations knowledge and the value it can add to projects 


“I love the creativity and the collaboration [of planning]. And also I’ve always been very passionate about justice and country and people. So [planning] just felt like a really good fit.”

“I am really passionate about bringing First Nations perspectives to planning. There is a lot to learn because effectively, First Nations people were the first planners on this country. They had thousands of years of experience in how to engage with country, understanding the different systems of weather where you should or shouldn’t have certain uses. And I think there is a lot for us to learn from and be inspired by.”

“[Smart Communities] is about harnessing what technology can do for us as a platform, but also making sure that it’s people focused. And I think that sometimes in this space, unfortunately, people can be taken out of the equation. And so I think it’s about re-centering our thinking around how we can make technology work for us rather than the other way around. Because sometimes it can be a little bit dehumanised.”

“[Smart Communities] is about trying to figure out ways to bring people back into the centre of placemaking. And thinking about our future, whilst also harnessing the tools that we have in our hands.”

“[The Western Sydney Aerotropolis] is probably one of my career highlights, because it’s a combination of all of the things that I love and the skill set that I’ve developed with my development, like da assessment experience, working with communities, that kind of problem solving and also helping to guide the future of planning outcomes.”

“When people talk to me about engaging with First Nations communities and things that they should think about, one of my first and immediate responses is to go with an open mind.”

“Something that I always try to be intentional about is being open and asking questions, being prepared, but at the same time, just allowing the conversation to flow and let them lead. Rather than feeling like I’ve got this whole set of questions, and all of these things I need to get to, because that might not actually lead to where they want to take the conversation.”


Zion Engagement and Planning 

Western Sydney Aerotropolis 


Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community 

Connect with Elle via LinkedIn 

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community  

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital


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