Blak Design

“When I see a work of art or design by one of our people, I see an invitation to join them on a journey. I take myself inside, attempting to unwrap the layers. This art is precious and I want to understand what it is trying to tell me. I want to feel the message it contains … Blak design is critical and integral for remembrance and reflection. “

– Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin, Wurundjeri Elder and Traditional Owner in exhibition catalogue Blak Design Matters – National Survey of Contemporary Indigenous Design, Koorie Heritage Trust, 2018.

An Australian first, the Blak Design program is a four-year initiative that fosters First Peoples cultural innovation within the Victorian design sector and provide a platform for nurturing sustainable, First Peoples design practices.  To date, 30 metro and regional artists have been involved in this highly successful program. The first two-years of the program focused on contemporary jewellery and the third year’s program on ceramics.

Over the year, participants take part in a series of hands-on intensive design and making workshops, as well as small business skills workshops, along with access to industry and cultural mentors, design professionals, and industry practitioners.

’We have worked with artists, craftspeople and designers living in Victoria to support their long-term sustainable design practice.  We have had great success over the last three years of the program, and testament to that success, is the number of participants who have had ongoing success in their business and artistic practices,” says Tom Mosby, CEO, KHT.

At the completion of each year’s program, KHT held an exhibition to celebrate the participants achievements and include: Blak Jewellery, Finding Past · Linking Present KHT, 4 September 2021 – 27 February 2022; Layers of Blak KHT, 1 October 2022 – 19 February 2023 and touring nationally; Fired Up: Stories Through Embers and Earth KHT, 24 November 2023 – 11 February 2024.

This ground-breaking program has fostered successful business and design careers.

Blak Design First Year, 2021

Blak Jewellery, Finding past : Linking Present participating artists:  Ange Jeffery (Wiradjuri), Aunty Beverley Meldrum (Wirangu, Kokatha), Cassie Leatham (Taungurung), Hollie Johnson (Gunaikurnai, Monero Ngarigo), Isobel Morphy-Walsh (Taun Wurrung), Jenna Lee (Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri), Kait James (Wadawurrung), Lisa Waup (Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander), Sandy Hodge (Lardil), Sharn Geary (Bundjalung) and Suzanne Connelly-Klidomitis (Wiradjuri).

Blak Design Second Year, 2022

Layers of Blak participating artists:  Thelma Austin (Gunditjmara), Mandi Barton (Yorta Yorta/Barapa Barapa/Wemba Wemba), Lorraine Brigdale (Yorta Yorta), Nikki Browne (Bidjara), Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung), Tammy Gilson (Wadawurrung), Elijah Money (Wiradjuri), Yasmin Silveira (Palawa), Sammy Trist (Taungurung), Dominic White (Palawa) and Tracy Wise (Barkindji Ngiyampaa Maligundidj).

Blak Design Third Year, 2023

Fired Up: Stories Through Embers and Earth participating artists: Annie Brigdale (Yorta Yorta), Suzanne Connelly-Klidomitis (Wiradjuri), Nicholas Currie (Yugambeh, Kuku Yalanji), Trina Dalton-Oogjes (Wadawurrung, Gunditjmara), Ellie Franks (Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi), Mick Harding (Taungurung), Darcy McConnell (Dja Dja Wurrung, Yorta Yorta), Sean Miller (Gamilaroi) and Corina Muir (Yorta Yorta, Boonwurrung)

Blak Design Fourth Year, 2024

Participating artists: Matty Chilly (Wiradjuri, Wemba Wemba, Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, Waddi Waddi, Barapa Barapa and Gubbi Gubbi), Tarsha Davis (Kuku, Yalanji and Palawa), Tahnee Day (Yorta Yorta, Gunditjmara, Wemba Wemba), Tahnee Edwards (Yorta Yorta, Taungurung), Teena Moffatt (Yorta Yorta, Gunaikurnai, Gunditjmara), Michelle Searle (Awabakal), Emma Stenhouse (Ngarrindjeri), Tricia Van Der-Kuyp (Wiradjuri) and Emmy Webbers (Gunai/Kurnai).

We acknowledge Destiny Deacon (KuKu, Meriam Mir), artist, broadcaster and political activist, for provenance of the term “Blak“.

Blak Design is an initiative of the Koorie Heritage Trust and is presented in partnership with The Ian Potter Foundation, RMIT University, National Gallery of Victoria and precinct partner Fed Square.

KHTs Blak Design program has been recognised in Australia’s International Good Design Awards (2023) for Excellence in Design and Innovation across a number of categories.

  • Best in Class, Fashion Impact for Blak Design (Contemporary First Nations Jewellery)
  • Gold Winner, Fashion Impact for Blak Design (Contemporary First Nations Jewellery)
  • Gold winner, Social Impact for the Blak Design Program
  • Gold winner, Architectural Design – Installation Design for exhibition design Layers of Blak

Blak Design Program alumni 2021 talk about their practice.

Image: Elijah Money (Wiradjari), Namesake 2022, sterling silver and 9ct gold. Collection of the artist. Photographer Fred Kroh, 2022.