INNOVATION: Masks designed by Aboriginal artists modelled by (from left): Andrew Smith, Cree Welsh and John Schultz at Murrook Culture Centre.

INNOVATION: Masks designed by Aboriginal artists modelled by (from left): Andrew Smith, Cree Welsh and John Schultz at Murrook Culture Centre.

Face masks designed by Aboriginal artists go around the world

Face masks designed by Aboriginal artists go around the world

Industry
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Thousands of masks have been sold globally.

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One Aboriginal Land Council in NSW is doing its bit to fight coronavirus and keep the coffers churning over.

The Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) in the Hunter regionis making masks, designed by Aboriginal artists, which have captured imaginations across the world.

Worimi LALC chief executive officer Andrew Smith said more than 4000 face masks, produced at the Murrook Culture Centre, had been sold.

"I was approached by a fellow church member some time ago, asking me if I knew where she could acquire some face masks for the older parishioners," Mr Smith said.

"We happened to have a seamstress on board and after exchanging a few ideas we came up with these cloth masks designed by various Aboriginal artists. It also enabled us to keep some of our staff employed producing the masks during the lockdown.

"Before too long a Facebook post had gone viral and we were getting requests from people and organisations both locally and abroad."

Mr Smith said that like so many other small businesses in Port Stephens, the LALC was still coming to terms and learning to adapt to the impact of COVID-19, including the forced postponement of NAIDOC Week (traditionally held in the first week of July) to November 8-15.

"It is a shame that we had to postpone celebrations, but having said that November - with its warmer climate - could be a more appropriate time of the year for some of our elders."

A CELEBRATION: Lola Bovill, Louie Bovill and Scarlett Hunt at the opening of 2019 NAIDOC Week celebrations in Raymond Terrace. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

A CELEBRATION: Lola Bovill, Louie Bovill and Scarlett Hunt at the opening of 2019 NAIDOC Week celebrations in Raymond Terrace. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

He said the NAIDOC Week committee will meet on August 1 to discuss the date changes and map out a way forward.

"Last year we had approximately 500 people march through both Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay, in addition to more than 5000 visitors who attended the Murrook open day."

Ms Smith said that the pandemic had also delayed construction work on the $10 million redevelopment of the Murrook centre.

Once completed, the iconic centre, which attracts up to 20,000 visitors annually, would create a unique Aboriginal cultural, interpretive, educational and heritage hub not seen anywhere in Australia.

"We are a fortnight away from lock-up stage then we can start work on the fit-out. New facilities include a conference centre, new office building, cafe, cultural display and exhibition centre, educational/training rooms, commercial kitchen and dining area, swimming pool and amphitheater," Mr Smith said.

"We have built this centre with our own blood, sweat and tears and our vision is to have a facility that can showcase and celebrate the great work of Aboriginal people, while embracing and welcoming displays from all over the world.

"We want to make available our Worimi elders to educate visitors and share their knowledge and experiences with the local community. We are hosting camps for sporting and corporate organisations and will be looking to build on that market as restrictions are lifted."

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