In a joint project between the Australian and NSW Governments, Transport for NSW (TfNSW) is developing a new M12 Motorway. The M12 will provide access to the future Western Sydney International Airport. The Motorway will run between the M7 Motorway at Cecil Hills and The Northern Road at Luddenham for a distance of about 16 kilometres.

Balarinji was engaged within the Arcadis and HASSELL design team to embed Aboriginal heritage and culture within the Motorway’s identity. Through Balarinji’s cultural design principles methodology, a deep Aboriginal sense of place informed the earliest stages of M12 design.


From research and collaboration with endorsed local Aboriginal stakeholders, Balarinji created
an interpretation plan to activate the corridor’s Aboriginal narrative. The overarching theme of “Interconnectedness” has guided the M12 design which depicts the central Aboriginal tenet of physical and spiritual belonging to Country.

Balarinji’s methodology included:

  • deep, authentic engagement with verified local stakeholders

  • thorough, peer-reviewed desktop research

  • workshop methodology to facilitate local Aboriginal stakeholders and creative professionals to articulate and interpret their own authentic Body of Story for a Body of Art for conceptual interpretation

  • translating the site’s core Aboriginal narrative for the M12 Design Team to integrate local Aboriginal cultural interpretation

  • commitment to offering opportunity and building capacity in the Aboriginal creative community,

  • by fostering local art practice and by growing partnerships with established and emerging Aboriginal architects and designers.

Throughout concept and detailed design for construction, Balarinji worked closely with local Aboriginal artists and Knowledge Holders to translate the cultural theme for art and design across the M12 through the development of an Aboriginal Art Strategy for the Motorway.

Balarinji continue to work with TfNSW, a cohort of local Aboriginal Artists and public art fabricators in the commissioning of public artworks for the Motorway corridor which includes a 30-metre-high sculpture, celebrating the Great Emu in the Sky constellation which will be a major landmark for new visitors to
the airport.

The creation stories, song, dance, iconography and cultural practices that have informed the M12 cultural narrative and Aboriginal Art Strategy, will greatly enrich the built form, landscape design and interpretive user experience. The story of those who traveled the area long before us is a rich and authentic base for the project’s identity.