Centring marginalised voices… geographically.

As a follow up to a reading for Planning Theory and History that I enjoyed, a chapter from Cities for Sale by Leonie Sandercock, my tutor went the extra mile and emailed me a link to the author speaking at a conference in Vancouver.
I replied to her email with this:
“Planning is so new to me, I’m really clumsily grappling with a lot of concepts at the moment and trying to fit them in to my existing perspectives and this is a perfect example (and so useful).. As she asks at the end of the presentation: ‘what do aboriginal rights and title mean in urban areas?’ What does that look like? I realised I have no idea what, for example, the Koori Heritage Trust envisions for the City of Melbourne and its surrounds.
The idea of re-centreing and connection to country amidst the city subverts traditional ideas that all you could have in the city would be ‘cultural displays’ or museum-type exhibitions, rather than facilitating access and on-going connection and present community activity. Essentially, the fact that it is not 100% for white people is the key difference to what we’ve traditionally done.”
I didn’t want to clog her email inbox with any additional half-baked ideas (which would essentially become content for this site anyway), so here they are…

The centring of marginalised voices is typically talked about in terms of IRL conversations, submissions to formal decision-making processes, and in terms of elevating creative voices from marginalised groups by quite literally giving them access to a platform to perform from. At least in my limited experience.

After reading the Conversation piece on the Koorie Heritage Trust’s new office, I realised geographically centring marginalised voices could also be powerful. Cities are centres of activity and innovation and if you want marginalised voices heard, won’t they be better heard if they are physically present (if possible)? Unmissable, such that ignoring them would be inexcusable.

It’s not that there should need to be someone in the room in order for a particular group to be considered (although, sometimes that is the case unfortunately), but wouldn’t it put them physically in the way (if they wish to be), making it harder for them to be ignored. What could this do for the LGBTQIA+ community? For people with disabilities? Low income people? People experiencing homelessness? Consequently, what has the Melbourne homeless ban done to centre the voices of those people? For the people at the intersections of two of more marginalised identities?

Are there other ways of centring (like geographically) that we don’t often consider, which we can utilise to elevate the voices of the marginalised?
Either way you cut it, I’m still another white, cis, able-bodied planner. So, how I can use my privilege to bring marginalised peoples to the front and centre of conversations around planning?

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