With the theme of Elevate, Decor + Design in 2023 will have an increased focus on socially conscious and sustainable design. We’re partnering with the National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA) for the first time, to create a showcase of their latest partnerships in furniture, soft furnishings and design.

Aboriginal design has captured the attention and admiration of a widespread audience. It is a design language that is increasingly in demand, to create respectful, meaningful, geographically relevant visual projects and to communicate Aboriginal cultural values to the world.

Image: NADA

The National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA) is a unique organisation established in 2012 – born out of the need to develop and champion a sustainable and authentic Aboriginal design industry in Australia. It manages ethical partnerships between Aboriginal artists and clients.

NADA offers cultural design services, sourcing and managing outstanding Aboriginal artists and collaborating on authentic product development. They also manage the design licensing process.

A Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance Initiative

A social enterprise, NADA is part of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance (SWFW), an Aboriginal corporation governed by ten Local Aboriginal Land Councils, from Karuah to Coffs Harbour on the NSW Mid North Coast.

NADA’s clients include retailers, architects, designers, galleries/museums, large corporations, Aboriginal business, not-for profits, and government organisations or businesses interested in meaningful Aboriginal design.

Original funding to create NADA came from the Department Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and was soon followed in late 2012 by generous support from the Westpac Foundation. They have also worked closely with intellectual property lawyer Terri Janke to create licensing templates that protect both buyers and artists.

A Considered, Collaborative Approach

NADA has a network across Australia, connecting clients with some of the country’s leading and emerging Indigenous creatives. NADA manage the entire process from expression of interest through to artwork creation, licensing through to project management.

NADA is underpinned by consultation and collaboration, with clients, the Aboriginal community and artists. Undertaking any large-scale design project that involves Aboriginal design requires considered cultural awareness, a proven approach, and the right connections to ensure the integrity of the artist, the project and the customer is protected.

With many incredible projects in NADA’s portfolio, we’ve pulled out three impressive examples of creative partnerships that harnesses stunning, original Aboriginal design…

WESTPAC: Infusing Corporate Australia With the Spirit of Aboriginal Design

NADA worked with Westpac, project managers Lend Lease and designers Geyer to create contemporary and meaningful Aboriginal designs for the Westpac Barangaroo building in Sydney. Two designs were chosen for the project – Grinding Grooves and BirdFish, both by Gumbaynggirr artist Brentyn Lugnan.

The Grinding Grooves design by Gumbaynggir artist Brentyn Lugnan. Image: NADA

The Grinding Grooves design is inspired by axe-grinding grooves, which are an important link for Aboriginal people today with their culture and their heritage.

In the past Aboriginal people used axe-grinding grooves to finish partly made axes (known as ‘axe blanks’) or sharpen axes that were worn or chipped. Axe blanks are pieces of stone that were chipped into a basic axe shape at stone quarries and sharpened by rubbing the edges over sandstone. It was this rubbing action that left the grooves. Water was sprinkled onto the sandstone to make it more abrasive and to reduce dust. This is why the grooves are usually found on outcrops close to water. The Grinding Grooves design shows a reveal of axe-grinding grooves in a sandstone platform around a waterhole. It was used to great effect on rugs in the Westpac building.

‘Grinding Grooves’ rug in the Westpac building in Barangaroo. Image: NADA

Read more about the Westpac project here.

Ashton Designs & Angela Marr-Grogan: Harnessing the Spirit of the Sea in Bespoke Furniture

The stunning Sea Spirit bespoke furniture range is the result of a collaboration between NADA, Birrbay artist Angela Marr-Grogan and fine furniture designer Dean Bridgeman from Ashton Designs.

Angela Marr-Grogan’s traditional language name, Gurrwa Marraygan, means Sea Spirit, and this shines through in her art. The range of Sea Spirit designs reflect Marr-Grogan’s love of her saltwater roots, and, in particular, in her rendering of familiar coastal shell-shapes, honours her Ngaya (mother’s) favourite saltwater food, abalone.

The Sea Spirit Bespoke Furniture Collection for Ashton Designs, Designed by Angela Marr-Grogan. Angela Marr Grogan is also pictured in the feature image of this article. Images: NADA

As an Aboriginal woman and artist, I am extremely passionate about celebrating and promoting my culture through art and language. I am inspired and driven by the depth of my culture and my place within it.

Angela Marr-Grogan

Printed on organic hemp in sea foam and in pink salt, Marr-Grogan’s bold, symmetrical designs suggest, stylistically, old-school block or lino printing. But this belies an underlying complexity of intricate dot work, lines and curves — just like the seashells (duran gurrwa) the designs celebrate.

Read more about the Sea Spirit project here.

Luxe Walls: Making Aboriginal Art Accessible

NADA also collaborated with luxury Sydney-based wallpaper company Luxe Walls on a range of contemporary Aboriginal design wallpaper.

The collection features 14 works, each of which share a story of Aboriginal culture. Priced at $99 per square metre, the range is an accessible way to invest in Aboriginal art. It is also 100% removable and reusable.

One of the artworks is ‘Berries’ by Bibi Barba, who was inspired by her Grandmother’s vivid storytelling and her love of the land.

‘Berries’ by Bibi Barba for Luxe Walls. Image: NADA

Read more about the Luxe Walls collaboration here.

Don’t miss seeing the inaugural exhibition from the National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA) at Decor + Design this year! The show will take place from 13 – 16 July at Melbourne Exhibition Centre, co-located with the Australian International Furniture Fair (AIFF). Entry to the exhibition is free but limited to trade visitors. Register now to be approved and start planning your trip to Australia’s premier event for the interior design industry.