Mailey gets creative for NAIDOC Week

Jun 22, 2022

Mailey is smiling and looking at the camera, he is holding his artwork

Nineteen year-old Mailey Kelly leaned into his artistic talents when he began a journey of discovery with Rocky Bay’s Stages Toward Employment Pathways (S.T.E.P.) program. His creative journey lead him to submitting artwork to the National NAIDOC Committee’s 2022 Poster Competition earlier this year!

In 2021, Mailey collaborated on the creation of an indigenous inspired art work as part of the S.T.E.P. program, which was displayed at Rocky Bay’s Clarkson hub, and attracted much praise from staff and customers.

“It came apparent that Mailey was a very talented artist,” said Rocky Bay S.T.E.P. Mentor, Claire Francis.

“Mailey was introduced to the idea of entering the National NAIDOC 2022 poster competition, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are encouraged to submit their artwork.”

The NAIDOC poster competition represents a significant opportunity for talented young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to have their work – which must reflect this year’s theme of Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! – recognised nationally as part of the celebrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and achievements during NAIDOC Week in July.

The winning artist not only receives a cash prize, but their artwork is also used as the official 2022 National NAIDOC Week poster, receiving nation-wide exposure.

In previous years, the winning artwork has been used to wrap public transport, as the backdrop for a current affairs program, and was even on display at Expo 2020 in Dubai.

Claire supported Mailey to prepare for his entry and used the opportunity to help guide him on his budgeting skills and encourage Mailey to research various art materials, compare products and pricing. Claire also reached out to professional local artist, Esther Biesse, to work with Mailey to help develop a design.

Mailey and Esther, brainstorming and designing

“Part of the S.T.E.P. program is to guide and understand Mailey’s skills, and dedicate time to help him explore and reach his goals,” Claire said.

“We did a lot of discovery with Mailey across various modules, and one of the things we discovered was Mailey’s amazing art talent, so we used this to incorporate soft skills such as communication, budgeting, staying on task, and planning along with capacity building.

“Esther was a great support and had several sessions with Mailey, designing, planning and offering tips.”

Whilst Mailey’s entry didn’t see him take out the competition (this time!) it has certainly fuelled him to continue designing and creating art.

“I was happy and proud of my finished artwork,” Mailey said.

“I enjoyed my painting… We worked with Esther, a professional artist, and Esther gave me a few ideas and helped me learn how to draw my ideas.

“I drew the Aboriginal flag with a raised fist symbol as the theme for NAIDOC Week 2022 is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! And I wanted to show strength and hope.

“I also drew the Aboriginal symbols for stars, long walk, flowing river, mountains and waterhole.”

Mailey art encompasses many meanings. The raised fist expresses unity and strength, the stars are the homes of ancestors, animals, plants and spirits, water holds much spiritual significance as a place to gather; the waterhole is a sacred space and often used as the site of ceremonies.

The design also depicts concentric circles, which signifies the meeting places where people come together.

“Mailey learnt and grew from this opportunity and now has an amazing piece of art work to display proudly at home,” Claire said.

Congratulations to Mailey for creating such a thoughtful and beautiful piece of art that holds such powerful meaning to him. All eyes will be on what Mailey will create next and where his talent takes him!

The S.T.E.P. program uses an individual approach to transition young people from school to employment, by building the skills they need to start their employment journey. could support you, call 6282 1900.

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