by Nina Fitzgerald and Ellie Meyer


Image: Babbarra Designs x Publisher Textiles. Models Jessie, Sharna, June, Toni and Chanel. Photo Ingrid Johanson..

NIFA | Community Collaboration Award

In the lead up to the inaugural NIFAs, we’ll be delving into each of the six Award categories, and introducing you to some of the unique talent of Australia’s leading First Nations designers, creatives  and artists!  Next up, the Community Collaboration Award, recognising effective and productive relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the textile and fashion industry.

Connection and coming together. 

Communities play a central role in the lives of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Artistic practice is derived from sharing ideas and histories, cultural storytelling and spiritualism, and traditional practices amongst family clan groups and their wider communities. Fashion and textiles create a unique avenue to bring people together, and to explore and express stories in new and innovative ways. 

Ethical collaborations create the foundations for authentic, two-way cultural exchanges. They form long term relationships and commitments, creating direct economic and development opportunities for the communities involved. The most powerful collaborations ensure that there is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agency throughout the entire collaboration process – from the textile and fashion design, to manufacturing, and promotion.

This year’s panel of judges will be considering each nominee based on; demonstration of collaboration outcomes, culture advancement and expression, social and economic contribution to Indigenous communities, originality and innovation.

“It is wonderful to celebrate and promote positive, ethical and respectful collaborations through these awards. Collaboration and co-design are concepts that are so much in line with culturally led practice and ways of working. The examples some of these projects set about how we can best work together, should be seen as inspiration for work beyond the fashion sector. I hope these works inspire more collaboration and partnership into the future.”

Yatu Widders-Hunt
Senior Consultant at Cox Inall Ridgeway
Founder @ausindigenousfashion
NIFA 2020 Judge


The prize for this category includes tickets to a major textile or fashion event with a travel allowance of $5,000 and an editorial in a major fashion publication.


Community Collaboration Nominees


Mary Dhapalany Mangul, Margaret Djarbaalabal Malibirr and
Evonne Muyuyngu of Bula’bula Arts x Julie Shaw of MAARA Collective

The Bula’bula Arts x Maara Collective collaboration is a project that celebrates contemporary design with ancient Indigenous cultural knowledge and technique. Yuwaalaraay fashion designer Julie Shaw travelled to Arnhem Land to work with the Yolngu artists of Bula’bula Art Centre on the creative project, from discussing initial design concepts to sourcing the natural materials on country to observing the Yolngu women weaving the final pieces.

Inspired by the coming together of ancient practices with contemporary design, master-weavers Mary Dhapalany, Margaret Malibirr and Evonne Muyuyngu interpreted their cultural knowledge and skills into a range of exquisite bespoke fashion accessories to complement the garment collection, working with natural materials and dyes from the surrounding bushlands of Ramingining.

 Hopevale Arts and Cultural Centre x QUT with “Guuliil”

The Guuliil collection was formed through the 2020 collaboration between the HopeVale Art and Culture Centre artists Wanda Gibson, Daisy Hamlot, Shane Gibson, Madge Bowen and Gertie Deeral, and fashion students from Queensland University of Technology. Guuliil, meaning jellyfish in the native Guugu Yimithirr language, signifies the Aboriginal belief that true harmony exists when every element of the natural environment works together. The artists used totems and sacred sea life in their work to immortalise cultural stories for future generations. Textures, perspectives and sculptural techniques combine with projections of the artwork onto the student-designed garments, creating a new form of wearable art. The freeform movements designed in the garments represent the flow of water and its natural passage through our lives, the art projections navigate the living elements of our waterways. These combine to create a powerful story that evokes the complexity of water and its need for protection.

People, Culture & Country, a QLD State Schools Art Project
Catalogue 2019

People, Culture & Country is an innovative project developed for North Queensland schools to improve engagement and retention rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through art making and connection to Culture and Country. In 2019 the project saw 114 students from 9 schools work collaboratively to create 14 wearable artworks based on their Indigenous Culture. A diverse range of Indigenous artists (printmakers, weavers, painters) delivered artmaking workshops for students (and teachers) to learn both traditional and contemporary skills and techniques. The project culminated in an exhibition of artworks and photographs with accompanying catalogue, documentary videos and education resource kit. Over 200 people, including Elders, family, and dignitaries, attended the exhibition opening to celebrate the collaborative efforts of students, teachers, artists, family, and volunteers. An increase in students’ self-identity and cultural pride, and a strengthening of relationships between staff/students/families were major outcomes of the project, along with exposure of Indigenous culture to the wider community.

Babbarra Women’s Centre x Publisher Textiles

Made up of over 25 incredible artists from 12 language groups & over 60 designs, Babbarra work across different mediums from textiles to pandanus weaving, bark painting & sculptures. In this collection artists explored transferring bark painting techniques to textiles, with fine line cross hatching using a long thin sedge grass found in the native surroundings of Maningrida as paint brush. Contemporary colourways mix with traditional themes of country, clan, totems and ancestral creation, depicting stories from the coastal saltwater to freshwater clan groups. Babbarra and Publisher have been working together for 10 years, having produced hundreds of metres of fabric, and together have greatly improved and increased printing on site. In 2018 they began collaborating on a 100% Australian made clothing range, and have since been working to formalise the licencing agreement between Babbarra and Publisher enabling more income for local artists via royalty fees. The unique and innovative relationship has allowed Babbarra to reach new customers through ready-made clothing and share their stories with an ever expanding audience.

Lisa Gorman (Gorman) x Tommy May, Sonia Kurarra, Daisy Japulija, Nada Rawlins, Lisa Uhl from Mangkaja Arts

The Mangkaja x Gorman collection was a highly successful, nationally recognised collaboration, instigated by senior cultural leaders of the Fitzroy valley. The Copyright Agency negotiated what has been billed as a national benchmark in fashion licensing rights and had the cultural values of Mangkaja artists at its core. Featuring ten significant artworks by five renowned Mangkaja artists from multiple generations; Ngarralja Tommy May, Sonia Kurarra, Lisa Uhl, Nada Rawlins and Daisy Japulija, this was the first collection of this scale. The clothing designs were innovative and reflected the values of the artists and styles of the women of the Fitzroy Valley. The project had significant and far reaching impacts for the community of Fitzroy Crossing, creating new opportunities for community members including engaging youth in modelling and photography professional development programs, which have continued beyond the project. There was substantial economic return for the artists in payments, stock they received, and cost price stock Mangkaja could offer to the community of Fitzroy Crossing. Gorman also provided a major donation towards Mangkaja Arts Youth and community programs.

Design Within Country by Marnin Studio, Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre

Now in its fourth year, Design Within Country (DWC) by Marnin Studio, Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre, was born from the desire of Fitzroy Valley artists to participate in the 2017 From Country to Couture fashion showcase. Supported by Marnin Studio and the Earthed Foundation, the DWC team linked the unique designs, talent and modelling potential of the region, with contemporary fashion industry know-how. After working on three cross cultural design collaborations with emerging fashion professionals from Melbourne, DWC is now focused on supporting Fitzroy Crossing designers establish their own micro businesses. Supporting opportunities to showcase work at high profile fashion industry events and connect with industry representatives, DWC has provided indigenous creatives in remote communities access to expert mentoring in fashion, design, photography, modelling and styling. DWC has also provided employment and creative pathways for indigenous women and students from the Fitzroy Valley District High School as part of a student re-engagement program and given a platform for indigenous artists to become role models in their communities.

Ikuntji Artists x Magpie Goose

Ikuntji Artists has partnered with fashion social enterprise Magpie Goose to create this special collaboration, featuring seven designs from five of Ikuntji’s most renowned artists: Alice Nampitjinpa, Keturah Zimran, Mavis Nampitjinpa Marks, Eunice Napanangka Jack and Mitjili Napurrula. The artists draw their inspiration from their personal Ngurra (country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming). The designs are unique to Central Australia, particularly the sandhills, waterholes, jagged mountains and sandy plains of the West Macdonnell Ranges region. The resulting collaboration with Magpie Goose showcases this: each piece telling a story – of people, place and culture. For many of the elderly artists in this collection, painting is becoming difficult and this collection brings about new means of economic sustainability. The success of this collaboration has created new and ongoing income streams for artists and inspired new avenues for artists to develop their artistic practice, exploring new mediums and becoming actively involved in the textile and fashion industry.

Kaiela Arts Artists x Spacecraft Studio

Kaiela Arts artists have collaborated with Spacecraft Studio over the last 4 years to develop screen printed fabric designs from artists’ original artwork. This close collaboration has grown into a trusted friendship between staff and artists at Kaiela Arts and Spacecraft, together having developed an innovative brand style expressing connection to the country in and on textiles.

‘CAMPFIRE’ is a curatorial and brand concept connecting Aboriginal artists from the Kaiela Dungula with clients through campfire gatherings on the banks of the Goulburn River near Shepparton. Pigments created from the residual charcoal of burnt river wood are used to create the finished screen printed textiles for their fashion collection and other products, enabling Kaiela artists to express cultural ideas and stories in a contemporary way.

CAMPFIRE is providing a new social and economic avenue for Kaiela Arts artists; learning new design and production methods for age-old materials, and making new connections with the fashion & architecture industries. Their names and stories are being heard and seen and worn with pride.

Tennant Creek Aunties for Rise-Ngurrajuta

Rise-Ngurrajuta is a community collaboration from seven Aunties in Tennant Creek. More than a quilt, the project is about sharing while creating. Sharing expression, sharing cultural values, sharing stories, and about being part of a group without judgement, where everyone is equal and supported by each other. Each piece is individual and original, showcasing their talent in daring to learn new skills, and their pride taken in creating something special. This quilt is now one of many created by the group, out in the community keeping families warm. Working with recycled clothing items to create personal quilts for elders and babies, many pieces are gifted to those who need support from “An Auntie”. The next stage for the group will be looking to small social enterprises to sell the quilts and other quality items that the Aunties are now confident in making.



This year’s winner will be announced during the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards (aka NIFA), and broadcast LIVE through the NITV social channels on 5 August! 

To stay updated, be sure to follow @indigenousfashionprojects on Instagram and sign up to the DAAFF newsletter. 


Image Credits

  • Babbarra Designs x Publisher Textiles. Models Jessie, Sharna, June, Toni and Chanel . Photo credit Ingrid Johanson.
  • Design Within Country, born out of Marnin Studio established by Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre, Fitzroy Crossing. Lulu Hat by Lauren McCarthy, Top by Joycelene McCarthy, Shorts by Lois Hazel. Model Shaniqua Shaw. Image by Candice Ishiguchi Davies.
  • HopeVale Art and Culture Centre and the Queensland University of Technology, Guuliil collection featuring coral reef textile design by Gertie Deera. Photo by Emma Ruddick.
  • Ikuntji Artists x Magpie Goose, Bush Skirt and Box Top featuring Tjilkamata Rockhole textile design by Alice Nampitjinpa Dixon. Photo by Tobias Titz.
  • Ithita Bull Ant Dress, Kaiela Arts Artists, print designed by Suzanne Atkinson. Photo courtesy of Angie Russi.
  • MAARA Collective x Bula’Bula Arts. Photo by Cybele Malinowski.
  • Mangkaja x Gorman featuring artwork by Sonia Kurarra. Photographer credit Charles Freger.
  • Tennant Creek Aunties making and planning the quilt work. Photo courtesy of TC Aunties.
  • Wearable artwork by students from Spinifex State College (Mount Isa, North Queensland), as part of the People, Culture & Country project. Photo by Christina Papadimitriou.
  • Banner Image | Babbarra Designs x Publisher Textiles. Models Jessie, Sharna, June, Toni and Chanel . Photo credit Ingrid Johanson. Nominated for the Community Collaboration Award.