Eight local First Nations creatives you need to know about

Eight local First Nations creatives you need to know about

Image via Amber Days socials.
Words by Talia Rinaldo

With our access to social media, it has also never been easier to support First Nations businesses.

While it’s no longer NAIDOC Week, it’s still a great day to embrace First Nations creatives. 

NAIDOC Week 2021 is an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the rich history, diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The NAIDOC 2021 theme – Heal Country – invites the nation to embrace First Nations’ cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia’s national heritage and equally respect the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders as they do the cultures and values of all Australians.

In celebration of NAIDOC Week, we’re highlighting a few First Nations artists and designers who are transforming the local creative scene and paving the way for future Indigenous creatives (and remember, this is only a small list of the many deadly brands out there!).

Papul Art

Billy-Jay O’Toole is a local indigenous artist who aims to educate people about his culture and love for land through his art.

Based in Geelong on Wadawurrung Country, Billy-Jay uses striking colour combinations and symbols to create precise and detailed works.

Creating commissioned works in different forms, sizes and media using acrylic colours, his artwork has been featured on water fountains at Deakin University, Corio Community Sports Club indigenous round jumper as well as the Geelong Cats jumper in previous years, signs, boomerangs, murals, and even on a tennis court on the Bellarine.

Working full-time as a cultural heritage representative for Wadawurrung is what motivates and inspires Billy-Jay’s art, sharing stories of country.

Immerse yourself in the magic of his artwork here.


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Soul Sister Co

Soul Sister Co is a newly-formed Indigenous-owned company created by two strong and inspiring First Nations women, Bek Lasky & Ruby Evans, focusing on ethically made, clothing and apparel. Bek is a proud Wakaya woman who was born and raised on Wadawurrung Country, and Ruby is a proud Yorta Yorta woman who was born and raised on Wadawurrung Country.

With a selection of comfy tees, hoodies, trackies and crewnecks, Soul Sister Co aims to empower, motivate and inspire young people through their designs and their Aboriginal culture, and are especially motivated to inspire young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls that they are capable of achieving their wildest dreams.

Visit the website here.

The Salty One

The Salty One – AKA Lowell Hunter – is a proud Nyul Nyul and Bardi man who grew up on Gunditjmara country in Warrnambool by the ocean, is a local sand artist who carves inspiring formations into the sand using just his feet and elements of traditional dance, before photographing them with a drone.

Living on Wathaurong Country, Geelong, Lowell’s artworks tell stories of family, identity and connection.

“My artwork is an expression and sharing of culture, the stories of family, my identity as a Saltwater Man and connection to Country,” he explains.

“I create my artwork along the surf coast to nurture my connection to the ocean and to create a space for learning, sharing and healing. Creating my work involves slowing down my mind, body and spirit. I create my sand art using similar movements as I do in Traditional Dance.

“I involve my children in the creative process, to pass on these powerful stories and to learn about our Culture so they can become empowered and strong in their identity as First Nation’s young people,” says Lowell.

Sharing meaningful stories of his culture in Wadawurrung Country, his prints, framed canvases and merch are truly sensational embrace culture and way of healing. Every image is unique, and every canvas is prepared by the ocean’s cleansing saltwater.

Check it out via his website here. Sharing the love this NAIDOC week, he is offering a 20% discount off purchases with the code NAIDOC21.

Amber Days

Amber Days is 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated. It’s run by Corina Muir, a Yorta Yorta/Boon Wurrung woman, and features Corina’s daughter, the superstar model Sapphire. Corina started the brand because she couldn’t find any kids clothing that didn’t use harmful chemicals in their processes, something that was, and still is, really important to her.

Designing ethical and sustainable children’s clothing (and now women’s clothing too), Amber Days uses only GOTS certified organic fabrics that have been dyed using GOTS certified plant-based dyes.

Inspired by the Australian bush, desert and sea, with each collection Amber Days collaborates with different Aboriginal artists to produce fabrics that tell stories of country and culture that has been passed down through generations.

Find out more here.

Ntulye Art

Ntulye Art is the artist moniker behind 18-year-old emerging Arrernte artist Bri Pengarte Apma Hayes. Based in Geelong, Wathaurong country, Bri is sharing her love for both culture and art through a variety of pieces including Emu eggs, coasters, journals, painted mirrors, shoes, as well as painting, prints and commissioned pieces.

Named after her great Nana Minnie, Ntulye Art honours Bri’s nana and her family, having learned the practice from her father when she was younger.

“This name has a lot of significance to me as I was named after my great Nana Undeyla, this name has various spellings (Unndulia, Undahlia, Undoolya) but they all mean the same thing, this name means shadow in Arrernte,” she says.

Using mostly blue and earthy tones, Bri’s artist ability to convey cultural connection is something that deserves to be seen and heard.

Check it out here.


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Koorroyarr Arts

Sisters, Tarryn and Kelsey Love, bring their own individual interpretations to the fore, a non-linear journey through culture, where time and space is freely shared to honour place and Country. They created Koorroyarr Arts to encompass the idea of being sisters and Gunditjmara women continually learning and seeking knowledge of their culture, while using art to channel this connection.

Tarryn Love, a proud Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong, creates from an archive of knowledge that honours First Nation people’s connection to place.

“First Nation peoples are the original storytellers and the original archivists of our knowledge. The songs of country began and continue in the voices of its custodians,” Tarryn says.

“My responsibility is to access, engage, interpret, add and protect the stories of my culture and express them through my art. It is within these actions that keep the songs alive.”

Kelsey Love, also a strong Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong woman, draws upon her connection to water and rivers, and the ecosystems that rely on these environments as a major inspiration for her work.

“I use the lines in my work to represent the direction, current, flow and movement of water to express how everchanging and evolving it is. I see it as a metaphor for our own continuous learning, our appreciation for Country, Culture and respect for our First Nations people as an infinite and evolving process,” says Kelsey.

Living on Wadawurrung country, together they have a passion for reviving their traditional language and endeavour to incorporate this into their multi-disciplinary artworks.

You can DM them here for purchases or to seek commissioned work.


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Peggy and Finn x Rachael Sarra

This one’s more a PSA about a fantastic local business teaming up with an Aboriginal artist and designer from Goreng Goreng Country in the Bundaberg area.

Rachael Sarra draws on her heritage to produce pieces that are steeped in culture while being contemporary. She creates pieces that can become a vehicle for conversation and change by helping to connect and celebrate culture.

With a style that is feminine, fun and engaging but is strongly drawn from her heritage and her role as an Aboriginal woman in a modern world, it fills us with so much joy that she’s teamed up with Torquay business Peggy and Finn (a unique and creative brand) for a product collaboration.

Inspired by the contour of the land and the sea, this collection represents the physical, emotional and spiritual connection to the Australian Landscapes through a cultural lens. The organic texture tied with the bold contrasting colours celebrating the diverse nature of the Australian elements. You’ll find pocket squares, ties, underwear and totes, providing something for everyone.

Better still, the local brand is donating 20% of profits from this collection to indigenous carbon farming projects. Check it out here.


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Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre

We’ve added in one more. The final creative on this list however isn’t an individual, it’s an art centre that has been supporting Indigenous artists for many years.

The Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre has long been a hub for celebrating aspects of Aboriginal culture, and located on Wadawurrung Country, it seeks to build an understanding of Aboriginal histories and culture in a welcoming, friendly and relaxed atmosphere, through personal interaction with groups and individuals from all community backgrounds. Celebrating the world’s oldest living culture, Australia’s shared heritage and dual responsibilities, Narana encourages reconciliation and respect of culture through helping to create positive models for engagement and important dialogue around issues of National Reconciliation.

​The word “Narana”, means to deeply listen and understand, in which you take in and give out. It is this concept of listening and understanding which underpins Narana’s mission to be a destination for cultural education and tourism activities.

If you’re looking to directly support, Narana’s retail outlet consists of a range of handmade indigenous items including arts, crafts, didgeridoos, boomerangs, other tools and artifacts, clothing, fashion accessories, books, health and beauty products, native herbs & spices, sauces, jams, souvenirs, and a selection of beautiful homewares. All artwork designs are licensed and designed by Aboriginal people including Cameron Benson, Will Carter, Nathan Patterson of Iluka Art and Liz Cameron of Belanjee – all of whom you should also check out.

They’ve also got an art gallery that showcases an array of traditional and modern styled art from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from all over Australia. This week, Narana is hosting an art exhibition to celebrate NAIDOC week and to support our local Victorian artists. It runs until Sunday, July 11.

You can find out more here.

Acknowledgment Of Country

Forte acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which we live, work, play and grow upon. We acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and pay our deepest respects to elders, past, present, emerging and of the future.

Alway was, Always will be!

You can find out more about NAIDOC week here.