National Indigenous Fashion Awards 2021 

Our expert panel came together earlier in the year, with a very tough job of selecting this year’s six NIFA winners from over 31 outstanding nominations

Yatu Widders Hunt

Director at Cox Inall Ridgeway. Founder of #ausindigenousfashion on Instagram & Facebook. Passionate about social justice, Indigenous Affairs and style.

Yatu is a member of the Dunghutti and Anaiwan peoples of the Northern Tablelands of NSW. Yatu has a background in communications, PR and community engagement. She has worked across various sectors including Government and the not for profit sector. She is currently the General Manager of Indigenous social change agency, Cox Inall Ridgeway.

In 2017, Yatu founded online community Australian Indigenous Fashion to celebrate the thriving First Nations fashion sector. She is a Board member on the First Nations Fashion and Design Board, as well as the Australian Fashion Council Board. Through her work she has collaborated with a number of organisations on First Nations Fashion and storytelling projects, including Country Road Group, Broadway Shopping Centre and NITV. She regularly speaks at conferences and in the media on issues of First Nations fashion and design.

Maria Rinaldi-Cant

Maria is head of women’s accessories and childrenswear design at Country Road, who are also the sponsors of the Fashion Design NIFA.

With over 20 years’ experience in the fashion industry, Maria has played a pivotal role at some of Australia’s leading fashion retailers including Sportsgirl, Cotton On and Witchery.

Over the past decade at Country Road, Maria has been instrumental in refining the brand’s design aesthetic and building a reputation that’s synonymous with quality design.

Her expertise and passion for nurturing young talent has seen Maria lead Country Road’s NIFA mentorship as well as mentorship programs with RMIT. She is dedicated to driving meaningful change and has been influential in leading the Country Road design team towards a more sustainable future.

“It’s an honour to be part of the National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA) judging panel and help shine a light on the incredible talent of Australia’s First Nations artists and designers.

Through our partnership with DAAFF, Country Road offers an annual mentorship to the winner of the NIFA Fashion Design category. This year we’ve had the pleasure of working with Julie Shaw of Maara Collective, and we’re looking forward to welcoming Denni Francisco of Ngali in 2022. 

For Country Road, our DAAFF partnership is an integral part of our reconciliation journey. It’s been an intentionally slow and considered process to ensure our support is based on the needs and wants of Indigenous designers and artists.” 


Gary is a Larrakia man and is the Artistic Director of NT Dance Company. He is a renowned choreographer, dancer, artist and textile designer.

Gary Lang trained at the National Aboriginal and Islander Dance School (NAISDA) and has toured nationally & internationally with some of Australia’s premier dance companies, the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre, Bangarra, Dance North and Tracks Inc.

Gary is a dynamic dancer, choreographer, teacher and performer and a much loved and revered figure in the NT dance community. He actively strives to maintain a strong cultural identity, acting as an ambassador for his culture through his practice.

Since returning to Darwin Gary has been working with a group of local male and female dancers and he provides them with much sought after opportunities for their development and performance in his works that have featured in front of Darwin audiences over the past decade or more. Gary’s choreographic work is sensual and evocative, presenting the best of contemporary dance rooted in the traditions of Indigenous Australia.

Leila Naja Hibri

 Leila is CEO of the Australian Fashion Council, with extensive experience across the fashion industry. 

Leila Naja Hibri was appointed as CEO of The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) in February 2020, having been actively involved with the AFC and a Member of its Board of Directors since 2018.

With a background in Economics and Accounting, Leila has close to twenty years’ experience in fashion brand management and development across APAC, Europe and North America. She has worked with organizations such as The United Nations, Prada and Luxottica and was General Manager at Australian fashion accessories label Helen Kaminski before her move to the AFC.

“This is the second year that I have had the privilege of judging the NIFAs. I am blown away by the depth of thought and mindful creativity behind this year’s nominees’ creations. It is critical that our industry acknowledges and celebrates Australia’s indigenous fashion heritage. Awards such as the NIFAs are more important now than ever.”


A very big thank you to Yatu Widders-Hunt, Maria Rinaldi-Cant, Gary Lang and Leila Naja Hibri!

If you are yet to watch this year’s National Indigenous Fashion Awards, please enjoy via the link below:


1) Yatu Widders Hunt, 2016, photo courtesy of Cox Inall Ridgeway.

2) Maria Rinaldi-Cant, photo courtesy of Country Road.

3) Gary Lang, photo courtesy of ntdance.org.

4) Leila Naja Hibri, photo courtesy of Australian Fashion Council.