The Australian International Furniture Fair (AIFF) & Decor + Design in 2023 will celebrate Australian Made and socially conscious design. This year will host the inaugural First Nations Design Collective, as well as a Green Design Hub showcasing zero waste products and design.

If you’re not already familiar with them, take a look at these three incredibly talented First Nations designers and artists, whose works connect us all through storytelling, beauty and functionality.

Nicole Monks

Nicole Monks is a multi-disciplinary creative of Yamaji Wajarri, Dutch and English heritage living and working on Worimi and Awabakal Country (Newcastle). Monks’ practice is informed by her cross-cultural identity, and her work reflects Aboriginal philosophies of sustainability, innovation and collaboration. She uses storytelling to connect the past with the present and future. 

Image: Nicole Monks by Paul Van Kan 

An award-winning designer and artist, Monks crosses disciplines to work with furniture and objects, textiles, video, installation and performance. Nicole is also a past winner of the VIVID Design Awards, which take place annually at AIFF & Decor + Design and is Australia’s leading platform for emerging designers.

Nicole won the  Furniture prize in 2017 for Nyinajimanha. Inspired by a trip back to the country and stories about Nicole’s great-grandmother’s renowned kangaroo tail stew, ‘Nyinajimanha’ (sitting-together) holds the narrative of bringing people together to create community, share knowledge and connect. The cultural belongings (furniture) are designed as a group of six chairs and one table to physically embody this unity. (Australian Design Review).

‘Nyinajimanha’ by Nicole Monks. Image: Australian Design Review

Lucy Simpson

Yuwaalaraay wirringgaa Lucy Simpson (left) is Creative Director and Principal Designer/Maker behind Gaawaa Miyay, a First Nations design studio inspired by country, relationships and notions of continuity and exchange.

A graduate of UNSW Art and Design and current PHD Candidate at the University of Technology Sydney, Lucy’s creative practice and research pivots around the ongoing role of First Nations design as tool and conduit to baayangalibiyaay / interconnected notions of wellbeing (people and place).

Lucy’s work has been featured extensively across public and private spaces, including museums, galleries, festivals and corporate collaborations.

We love the Reflection Pods which Lucy developed for Westpac, with whom she has worked on a Reconciliation Action Plan. The pods are a woven space which hold ‘a moment, a thought, a presence.’ They are inspired by fibre practice and its role as a conduit for knowledge transfer and continuity.

Image: Gaawaa Miyay, Lucy Simpson

This project was developed and designed by Gaawaa Miyay and created in collaboration with Koskela and Yolgnu weavers from Elcho Island and Milingimbi for Westpac’s Kent Street premises in Sydney. In total, 21 Indigenous artists worked on the project. Read more about the fascinating process here.

Alison Page

Alison Page is a Walbanga and Wadi Wadi woman and an award-winning designer and film producer. She also appeared for eight years as a regular panelist on the ABC TV show, ‘The New Inventors.’ In 2015 she was inducted into the Design Institute of Australia’s Hall of Fame.

Until recently, Alison was also the founding CEO of the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance and founder of the National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA).

Over the past two decades, her career has linked Aboriginal stories with contemporary design. Alison’s work explores links between cultural identity, art and the built environment, with projects spanning interiors, public art, installations and film.

An instance of Alison’s incredibly inspiring design is the exhibition ‘The Sit Place’, which reimagined the Australian living room with everyday objects telling Aboriginal stories.

The Sit Place by Alison Page. Aerial view of table also used in top feature image of this article. Images: National Aboriginal Design Agency / Alison Page

Be inspired by Australian Made and indigenous design at The Australian International Furniture Fair (AIFF) & Decor + Design in Melbourne, 13 – 16 July 2023 at Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Entry to the exhibition is free but limited to design trade visitors. Subscribe now to be notified when registration opens!