Celebrating culture in colour

Love of family and an interest in her Worimi and Biripi culture inspired 8-year-old artist Milla Turner’s painting ‘My Family’ and earned her the top prize in the Hunter category of the Young Archie Awards.

Milla said she is inspired by Aboriginal artworks because of the stories they tell.

“For my portrait I included a watering hole because it’s beautiful to look at,” she said.

“I also painted a meeting place because the artwork is about my family and I like to spend time with them. The other symbols are for man and woman, my Mum and Dad, and the four circles are for the children of my family.”

Inspired by the Archibald Prize, Australia’s oldest and much loved portrait award, the Young Archie competition invites children and teenagers to submit a portrait of someone who is special to them.

In the Hunter, 66 children young people had their portraits shortlisted across four categories. Milla’s portrait won the 5-8 years category.

“I love creating but Mum and Dad don’t always love my mess,” Milla joked.

Milla’s father, Brad, might not enjoy the mess but he loves the fact Milla has taken an interest in Aboriginal culture.   

“Growing up we didn’t have the same opportunities as Milla does today to learn about our family’s Biripi and Worimi identity,” Brad said.

“Now that we have the means, our family is really interested in finding out as much as we can about our culture, so our children can know their history. I’m happy Milla has taken such an interest, it’s really special,” he said. 

Milla’s mother, Tash, is equally excited by her daughter’s desire to learn more about her Aboriginal identity.  

“I love seeing kids create and love that Milla has taken an interest in her culture and has chosen to explore this further through her art,” said Tash, who often paints alongside Milla.

A student at St Joseph’s Primary School in Dungog, Milla said she has learned a great deal about Aboriginal culture from her family as well as from her school community.

 “My Year One teacher, Miss Cooper, read dreaming stories to the class. Then we would look at the artwork and discuss how it helped tell the story,” Milla said, adding that the school’s Pastoral Care worker Karen Tucker had also taught her a lot.

“Karen runs the Culture Yarn, and she is always sharing stories or showing us new things,” Milla said.

Milla’s parents are grateful St Joseph’s invited Milla to submit her artwork for the Young Archie prize and appreciate the school’s commitment to providing opportunities for students to explore their culture.

“St Joseph’s excels at nurturing this part of what makes the children ‘them’. It’s done so in a really holistic way, not just in a tokenistic ‘tick the box’ approach,” Tash said.

“It’s pretty special and a model that other schools could learn from.”

Milla’s winning portrait was exhibited in the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. In recognition of her achievement and in celebration of NAIDOC Week (3-10 July), Aurora approached Milla to include a copy of ‘My Family’ on the cover of this edition - she kindly agreed. Milla also created a second painting, entitled ‘Home’ that is featured on the page opposite and tells the story of her family at their home, which has recently been inundated with rain and is bursting with nature.

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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