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Celebrating Culture: How Perth Airport honours Noongar tradition

08 March 2024

Imagination Australia were tasked with creating a series of physical signs to identify Perth Airport for inbound and outbound travellers with the ambition to pay respect to the traditional owners of the land, the Noongar people of Perth, Western Australia.

In collaboration with Perth Airport and their local Indigenous cultural advisors Ash Penfold & Jayden Boundary, the team wanted to understand their people’s story and learn the significance of the place from the traditional owners of the Land, the Whajuk Noongar People to be able to truly translate this within the design.

This led to some important questions the creative needed to solve…

Art and symbolism

Art plays a significant role for Indigenous Australians in telling traditional stories of the land and passing on generational knowledge, through very specific symbolism. How can we integrate art and symbolism to better represent the deep spiritual meaning of the land the airport resides on for the Noongar people?


Since colonisation Noongar language has been severely impacted with many parts being lost altogether. The community are in the process of not only rebuilding their dialect but educating both indigenous and non-indigenous people to make it part of the local vernacular. We needed to see how we could leverage the Noongar language to play an informative but also an educational role as part of the wayfinding.

Traditional meets contemporary

As a 60,000-year-old culture, the Noongar people are graced with a rich history of cultural traditions but at the same time, new generations are creating new stories today. How do we balance age-old traditions with a contemporary execution to resonate with a varied and modern audience?

The Solution…

One design that can be single or double-sided, scaled up or down to cater to any of the seven key signage sites around the perimeter of Perth Airport. Taking on a circular form, a strong symbol within Noongar culture that represents the yarning circle, connection and coming together of people and community.

A textural metal canvas showcases the beautiful work of emerging local Noongar artist Jarni McGuire, laden with symbology and markings that represent the story of the land and Noongar culture. These are cut into six metre wide panels of stainless and corten steel that nod to the warm earthy reds and cool steely granite of the West Australian landscape. This inspiration was important, to create a natural palette with high contrast to ensure the signage complements but doesn't compete with its surroundings. Floating over the textured circular backdrops are the words that welcome inbound visitors to Perth or outbound travellers to Perth Airport depending on your approach. The careful choice of both Noongar and English words provides an opportunity for many, to self-learn the words Hello - Kaya. and identify the traditional land - Wadjak Noongar Boodja.

Integrated coloured wash lighting brings the signage to life through a celebration of colour, that changes throughout the year, to represent one of six different Noongar seasons. The colours were carefully curated where appropriate to compliment Perth Airport’s brand identity to find harmony with culture and brand. Influencing how the Airport’s signage evolves over the year while creating a unique visitor experience that drives conversation.

We’re very proud of what has been created as well as the seamless process of cultural collaboration. It is significant projects such as this that enable people and communities to grow closer and stronger together. It's not our role to be upfront or in the spotlight, but to be an architect, a facilitator, a curator to help others connect the dots and make what seemed impossible yesterday, very real today.

A big thank you has to go to Perth Airport for leading the way in reconciliation in their industry and also to the very talented Jarni McGuire, Ash Penfold and Jayden Boundary who are recognising the past while building a better future for their people.