Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that the following pages may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.

Stronger Together

Nov 16, 2021

We’re revisiting some articles from this year’s Art Collector DAAF 2021 Special Edition. Here, Claire G. Coleman explores the strength between two powerhouses.


Stronger Together.

The organisations giving Art Centres and their artist members a stronger voice.

Words by Claire G. Coleman, July 2021

Walk into an art fair like Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and you might see tables representing organisations with names you don’t recognise or understand.  They might have magazines, maps to Art Centres, all sorts of pertinent information. They are the Art Centre Peak Bodies, and they do a lot of graft behind the scenes to assist Art Centres with their important work.

Unity is strength, and a people divided is easily defeated. Even in times of peace and prosperity, it pays to remember that unity gave us the union movement to fight for workers’ rights – and the weakening of unions paves the way for a society in which workers are relatively powerless. 

All around Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have created Art Centres where they can work together, uniting on Country to empower artists, protect culture, and collectively bargain. The artists own and operate these Art Centres, and working with them ensures they get the lion’s share of the takings from their art, with a small cut going towards art supplies, staffing the Art Centre, and other important community initiatives. 

Art Centres do more than support artists. They support culture. These places are a key part of community life, fostering Aboriginal identity, encouraging artistic practice, and providing a platform whereby younger generations can work with and learn from Elders.

Image | Hermannsburg Potters booth at the Darwin Aboriginal Arts Fair, Photo by Dylan Buckee.

Banner Image | Red-tailed Black Cockatoo & Sulphur Crested Cockatoo by Irene Henry & Harold Goodman, Karnamarr & Ngarradj, Photo courtesy of Marrawuddi Arts & Culture.

From here, the development of Art Centre Peak Bodies seems inevitable. There are several of them scattered throughout Australia, each uniting and supporting a number of Art Centres in their region. 

The Aboriginal Art Centre Hub Western Australia or AACHWA represents Art Centres in the Western part of the country. Desart represents those in Central Australia. You’ll find the Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists (ANKA) looking after Art Centres in the Top End of the Northern Territory and Kimberley region of WA, while the Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (IACA) supports Far North Queensland Art Centres in Cairns, Cape York and the Torres Strait. Ku Arts represents those Art Centres in the south of Australia. 

These collectives provide an essential service in providing advocacy and collective communications, giving Art Centres and their artist members a stronger voice. IACA CEO Pamela Bigelow outlines the Peak Body remit, pointing to;

“Advocacy to Government; the promotion of Art Centres and artists to the public; the training of artists, Art Centre Managers and Arts Workers in all aspects of best practice; [and the] support of cultural maintenance through regular workshops and camps on Country under the leadership of traditional owners and Elders.”

Phillip Watkins, CEO of Desart, adds that Peak Bodies are;

“A united voice for Aboriginal-owned Art Centre membership, advocating for better operational environments and supporting artists to exercise their artistic, cultural, social and economic rights on the foundation of Culture First.”  

Chad Creighton, CEO of AACHWA, gives the following advice to burgeoning collectors;

“If you’re looking for leads for purchasing artwork from Aboriginal Art Centres and communities, the Peak Body websites are great sources of information, and all contain links to the member Art Centres from our region.” 

This information is pivotal so that buyers know they are making an ethical choice. Buying art ethically – by buying directly from an Art Centre or a commercial gallery or art fair (like DAAF) that works directly with Art Centres – ensures both that the artist gets a decent living from their art and that the art keeps its value. 

Ultimately, Peak Bodies support Art Centres to support the artists, art and culture of a region, empowering and securing the future of the industry. As Ku Arts CEO Gwen Gaff concludes;

“We have great aspirations for our Art Centres and communities and play a part in maintaining and celebrating culture in every part of our work. We know this is especially important for our young people – they are our future leaders. We wish to contribute to their creativity, health, wellbeing and hopes.” 

As with Art Centres, through Peak Bodies, our First Nations artists have the chance to be stronger, together.

 This article originally appeared in the Art Collector 2021 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Special Edition, head here to read more.

Cover Art by Madeline Purdie, Boabs After the Fire. Natural earth pigments and synthetic fixative on canvas, 60 x 60cm. Courtesy of the artist and Warmun Arts.

Contributor Claire G. Coleman is a Noongar woman who writes while travelling around the continent in a ragged caravan, towed by an ancient troopy. 

A big thank you to our community of supporters!

If you too would like to be a part of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation family and support our Art Centres throughout the year, head here for more information:

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