How Art’s Empowering Indigenous Women of Mornington Island

Mornington Island, off the coast of Queensland, is a site rich with Indigenous cultural heritage. Home to the Lardil clan – and later the Kiadlit people, who arrived in 1947 after a cyclone destroyed their fresh water supply – the island remains a hotbed for Aboriginal art, thanks in no small part to the hard work of the Mirndiyan Gununa Mornington Island Cultural Centre.

Recently, the organisation arranged a collaboration with Darwin-based Torres Strait fashion designer Grace Lillian Lee. Eager to explore the relationship between art and fashion in Indigenous culture, they created MiArt Designs to help develop and sell handcrafted, wearable art.

Alive with beautiful and brilliant designs created by a group of women from the region, the bags created by each artist have been on display at the Indigenous Runway Project at this year’s Virgin Melbourne Fashion Festival, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, and are on sale both on Etsy and at the National Gallery of Victoria’s gift shop. Where they best shine, however, is on the designers, who chose to model their own pieces as part of a fun and dynamic fashion campaign.

Amy, excited to show off her design.

Garbed in white before the pink wall of the community centre, the artists took to modelling quickly.

“We had rehearsals in the afternoon, learning a little about posture and presentation and how to just enjoy being in the spotlight and it was wonderful seeing how the artist themselves were naturals! I think they really enjoyed the experience of seeing their art become wearable,” Lee told NITV.

Amanda wears one of the most dazzling backpacks you’ll ever see!


Dolly’s design highlights the influence of traditional Indigenous art.


The details in Ethel’s handbag are sublime.

“It has been an amazing experience, not only developing me as a person, but also my career. It has shown me the possibilities of how art can meet fashion and how empowering it is for the communities to use this platform. It’s also has shown me how art can help with engaging the youth back into art centres,” says Lee.

We look forward to see what MiArt Designs have in store for us next time.

Source: NITV.

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