Ngatook Collective has designs on the future

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The creative endeavours of a group of 27 South West Aboriginal girls were officially unveiled at a special launch today (Thursday, December 2).

Over the past year members of the Ngatook Collective, a project designed to engage and immerse Aboriginal girls from Warrnambool, Heywood Colac and Terang in First Nations’ culture whilst developing life-long and practical skills, have been busy creating designs to feature on clothing and accessories.

The end result of the project, which was made possible with a $50,000 Victorian Government grant, is a creative product range of more than sixty items including bags, hats, t-shirts, jewellery, lunchboxes, ceramic vases and plates.

Each item showcases an individual cultural journey that was supported by local Maar Nation Aboriginal mentors and industry professionals.

The Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams said the program was “part of our work to ensure equal access to opportunities for women and girls where their voices, ideas and work can be valued and celebrated.”

“We're proud to support the Ngatook Collective to help them ensure Aboriginal girls develop life-long skills and connect to culture.”

Warrnambool Mayor Cr Richard Ziegeler acknowledged the support of the Victorian Government and said the success of the Ngatook Project provided an inspiring example to indigenous and non-indigenous people. 

“The program was designed by Indigenous female Elders and artists for the younger Aboriginal generation and this has been critical to its success,” Cr Ziegeler said.

“Congratulations to all the participants who, along with being guided in a creative sense, have also received an excellent grounding in getting a business up and running.

“The timing is canny, On Country creations are available for sale through the Warrnambool Art Gallery and if you’re looking for Christmas gifts, the work of the Ngatook Collective will provide something local, new and representative of South West indigenous culture which we can all share in.”     

Ngatook Collective Mentor Mel Steffensen said the program had been inspirational.

“Coming together with Elders and peers in a safe and welcoming environment sparked curiosity and inspired confidence in students to ask questions,” she said.

“For some participants, this has led to significant discoveries about their heritage, mob and totems.

“Students have really come out of their shells with confidence to explore their culture and heritage”.

WAG Director Vanessa Gerrans said the Ngatook Collective (Ngatook means “myself” in the local Peek Wooroong) had given participants a sense of what was possible in the creative industries.

WAG has a strong relationship with the local Aboriginal communities and has worked collaboratively with local Elders and artists to deliver exhibitions, programs and education sessions.

Building upon those relationships, WAG established the Maar Nation Gallery and Aboriginal-led legacy Initiative in 2018, the First Nations people of South West Victoria for the first time had a central place for the interpretation of history and culture through exhibition.

It also created a meeting place, for education, passing on knowledge, sharing stories and showing contemporary culture to many young people and the greater community. The Initiative has led to the Maar Nation Steering Committee of Elders and Cultural Leaders which has directed the development of the space.

Through the committee, local Elders expressed a need for the transfer of cultural and local traditional knowledge to the younger generation.

Picture: Jalya Debono (Keeray Whurrong) featuring the Ngatook Collective range ‘On Country’ south-west Victoria for Warrnambool Art Gallery, 2021. Photo by Alice Miles. The Ngatook Collective is supported by the Victorian Government Office for Women.