Celebrating NAIDOC Week: With Gunggari artist Mil’s Designs

Over the last six months, Medley had been placing emphasised efforts towards highlighting their core brand values and working towards celebrating initiatives that our small team passionately wish to support. One of these anchors heavily into our Australian roots and giving back to our community. With this in mind, it brings us such pleasure to announce that in line with NAIDOC week, a dedicated celebration that works to recognise the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we have partnered with Indigenous artist Emily Mainhardt to create a beautiful, commissioned art piece.  

Emily, also known as ‘Mil’ of Mil's Designs has created an original artwork, which all Medley customers will receive in their orders during NAIDOC Week (7 – 14 July), in the form of collectible packaging cards. Inspired by NAIDOC weeks theme, ‘Keep The Fire Burning! Blak, Loud & Proud’.   

Mil describes the meaning behind her work as: “a piece that shows the many different elements of being an Ambi (woman); the strength it takes to be a mother, the wisdom that's been shared with me as a daughter, the lessons I've learnt as a sister and the love I've received as a wife.” 

This theme celebrates the unyielding spirit of First Nations communities and invites all to stand in solidarity, amplifying the voices that have long been silenced. It represents enduring strength and vitality and encapsulates the unapologetic celebration of Indigenous identity.  Partnering with Mil is such an exciting opportunity for our team, as Medley have set out a core brand goal to better celebrate First Nations People as well as more actively work to represent all the beautiful cultures that touch the Medley business. 

We spoke to Mil about her art, how it connects her to her Indigenous culture, and what we should all keep in mind during NAIDOC week (and always) to better recognise and celebrate First Nations communities and culture:

Medley: Can you tell us a little bit about you, and how you started your art career?   

Mil: I’ve always loved painting, drawing and all things creative. But when I moved from the city to the beach in my early 20s, being immersed in nature a lot more awoke something inside me that I hadn’t tapped into before; I felt the pull towards my culture so strongly and I wanted to dive into it. I looked into my Mob (Gunggari Mob), asked my father a lot of questions and really tried to connect to the side of myself that I’d never really recognised before. This led me to wanting to create Contemporary Aboriginal Artworks. I wanted to be able to tell stories and interpret my culture in my own way.  

Medley: What is your creative process when starting a new art piece?   

Mil: I turn some music on nice and loud in my lounge room (only if my 9 month old is awake, if she’s sleeping I still turn music on but much softer haha); I lay my canvas out on the kitchen bench and I lay down my first base coat which usually helps me start to envision the painting and helps to decide what the vibe of the piece will be. I like to draw inspiration from nature or from textures I see or stories I’ve been told.  

Medley: How does creating these artworks allow you to feel connected to your Indigenous culture?   

Mil: Since starting painting, each piece I feel brings me closer to my culture and pushes me to want to learn more. Aboriginal culture is so diverse, interestingand beautiful, there is always something new to learn. Painting brings me so much happiness and helps me to appreciate where I’m from and how lucky I am to be an Aboriginal person and carry our culture on for the next generation.  

Medley: We would love for you to give us some more detail about the art you have created for us, what does each symbol mean?   

Mil: These paintings both represent myself.  
I am a;  Yanga - Mother | Burrgaila- Daughter | Bayindjilla - Sister | Wife   

All of these paths have encouraged me to always be Blak, Loud & Proud. These pieces show the many different elements of being an Ambi (Woman); the strength it takes to be a mother, the wisdom that’s been shared with me as a daughter, the lessons I’ve learnt as a sister and the love I’ve received as a wife.  

I want the viewer to look over each piece and feel the fire burning within, which is the theme of this year's NAIDOC.   
You’ll see symbols throughout each piece that represent community (e.g the circles in the centre with curved U shapes surrounding), woman’s weaving (the lines crossing over each other) and a journey from one place to another (the emu tracks and the flowing lines leading from one side to another).   

Medley: What does NAIDOC week mean to you and how do you celebrate it?   

Mil: NAIDOC week for me is an exciting time to really celebrate my culture; listen to First Nations Artists’ music, dance, paint (I always feel incredibly inspired during NAIDOC Week) and enjoy country. I’m so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world, Moonee Beach, so I'll take my family out on Country and soak it all in. We’ll head to the NAIDOC Markets and celebrations in our local area, and make sure to call my Dadand Aunties to have a good yarn.  

Medley: Lastly, for those new to celebrating NAIDOC week, what is one thing you’d love them to know most about the celebration and Indigenous culture?  

Mil: I’d like people to stop and really take an interest in Aboriginal History and really understand why we’ve had to fight so hard to not only reclaim our Culture but to preserve it and continue to share it. Aboriginal people have endured a lot and are still fighting to this day, please educate yourself and please immerse yourself in the beauty and really listen when an Elder speaks and shares their wisdom.  

To celebrate, from the 8th to the 14th of July, all Medley i=Change donations will be going to The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation which helps provide opportunity and education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, particularly in remote communities.    

Find out more about NAIDOC Week, local events in your area and how you can celebrate and show support this year.  

Discover more beautiful works by Mil’s Designs on her Instagram.  

Shop Mil’s top Medley Picks!