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.
The idea was originally conceived by Alison Page, a designer herself and the then executive officer of Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance. Alison wanted to create a design-based business that would create an income stream for Aboriginal artists plus create a solid licensing structure that would protect both the artist and the client.
The issue of provenance
NADA was created amid a backdrop of widespread public concern about the detrimental impact of cheap Asian product (such as souvenirs, clothing and other trinkets) on the market as authentic Aboriginal goods. The influx of such mass-produced imported goods is devastating because Aboriginal craftspeople and designers are unable to compete. Although they have been created by non-Indigenous people and have appropriated “fake” designs, such products are more often than not labelled “authentic Aboriginal” or “Aboriginal art”.
These issues and concerns surrounding provenance, authenticity and protection of Aboriginal artists’ interests remain: the need to continue to address them is what underpins NADA’s existence today.
How we began
The impetus to create NADA came after Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance’s many relationships with artists living on the Mid North Coast were documented in the popular Saltwater Freshwater Art Book [URL to buy book] in 2010. What began as a project to compile works from artists we knew in the region into a coffee-table-book-style portfolio, grew into us reaching a wide network of artists spanning Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong, Dubbo and Alice Springs.
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.
We worked closely with intellectual property lawyer Terri Janke to create licensing templates that would protect both our buyers and our artists.
The relationship with Westpac Foundation gave us the opportunity to pitch to the Westpac Group for Aboriginal designs to be incorporated in their new offices at Barangaroo in Darling Harbour – our first major project.
Since then NADA has drawn attention from many high-profile businesses and government organisations. We are delighted to also be collaborating with Westpac on another major design project.
Today, NADA is based in Coffs Harbour on the Mid North Coast of NSW, Australia, and remains a leading champion in the field of Aboriginal art, design and best practice licensing services. NADA has a total of 25 artists on its fast-growing nationwide portfolio and has facilitated major public works both for government and corporate organisations.
What we do
We are a social enterprise and the commercial arm of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance (SWFW), a not-for-profit organisation governed by ten Local Aboriginal Land Councils, from Karuah to Coffs Harbour on the NSW Mid North Coast. Our clients include retailers, architects, designers, galleries/museums, large corporations, Aboriginal business, not-for profits, and government organisations or businesses interested in meaningful Aboriginal design.
SWFW aims to position culture as the foundation for the development of the region’s Aboriginal communities through skills development, cultural programs and the creation of culturally-based employment opportunities. Find out more about the local significance and positive impact of SWFW’s work here.
Working in tandem with the mission of SWFW, the National Aboriginal Design Agency builds commercial networks that:
- provide employment for Aboriginal artists and designers through development of licensing agreements with manufacturers and businesses seeking meaningful Aboriginal design
- develop best-practice licensing templates for Aboriginal artists and clients. NADA is committed to ensuring best practice is continually improved, in accordance with industry standards, recognising that best practice not only supports the artist but the client as well
- assist in the business development of home-based design enterprises
- assist Aboriginal artists to achieve employment and enterprise development in the mainstream design industry and create ongoing income streams via licensing and royalties.
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