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Communities of practice

Multiple design system siloed across federal and state governments

Hi, I’ve previously worked on a project for the NSW government, and found that they also have their own design system:

I understand why a state government wants to have its own sub-brand, but are there any discussions about consolidating all Australian government design systems under one design system to rule them all? The premise being that it’s an inefficient allocation of tax payer money for Australia to actively maintain 7 different design systems (6 state + 1 federal).

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The DTA design system was designed to do exactly that across federal government. However it isn’t resourced sufficiently to keep pace with dozens of design teams, and those design teams are not contributing to the maintenance of the central design system. If the states wanted to field people to help maintain this design system, I’m sure the DTA would be keen to have their help.

The issue is, each design team is resourced to maintain their own designs, they create design systems because of an internal efficiency. No one is being paid to manage pull requests from other departments and resolve design issues for other agencies.

Lets say you design a component to solve a business and user need for your agency, you release it publicly, but now another agency needs you to do a heap of work to support a use case you’ll never have. Is your executive really going to redirect you from their pressing priorities to support that other agency’s use case?

The long term cost saving is cross jurisdictional and hard to quantify, the short term cost impact is significant and easy to quantify.


Thanks for your thoughts, and the short-term vs long-term impact explains it well.

I hope that the DTA design system continues growing and becomes so valuable that states will find it less efficient to create and support their own design systems. As things stand, having worked with both the DTA and NSW state design system, I actually prefer working with the NSW design system easier to work with as a designer because I found their Sketch template more useful.

Having said that, a Figma template would be even better.

Anyway, if you ever need to do community research with people that use the design system on end projects, I’d be happy to chat. Especially if it’s an effort to evolve DTA further.

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That design system is actually based off DTA’s! :slight_smile: I remember them presenting at one of the Design System community meetups a couple of years ago.

@podgkin has hit the nail on the head. COAG funding is a minefield and requires significant interest from parliaments to commit resources, see

While as developers on OSS we are accustomed to repos that have lots of repository permission levels for outside & internal contributors, the actual administration detail (which often does have to be spelt out) for cross-jurisdiction programs is more pain than it’s really worth.

Even at a Federal level, there can be tension between Departments concerning ownership and implementation (for example the CMS ‘holy war’ that will remain unspoken here…) While compliance with the Digital Service Standard is mandated by Fed Cabinet, using the Design System is not.

I hope so too! It’ll take some championing by developers like you, so please help with some PRs! (it’s gone a bit quiet this year)

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Current Governance arrangements for the Australian Government Design System - worth a read: