The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that the MAAS website contains a range of Indigenous Cultural Material. This includes artworks, artifacts, images and recordings of people who may have passed away, and other objects which may be culturally sensitive.

Nyinajimanha (sitting together) and other works by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

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Australia's First Peoples have become expert at adapting and responding to the world around them. Initially working with the impacts of the environment as the primary influence on creative practices, their adaptive resilience has come to the forefront as a result of the impacts of colonisation - not just the colonisation of country but of cultural practices.

In Janet McDonald's wedding dress, we see one of the earliest examples of an Aboriginal woman working with a European object but refashioning it according to her own specific Indigenous aesthetic and making the foreign her own.

It was often difficult for the settler's eye to see the true nature of Indigenous design theory, practice and innovation (Rebecca Bowarr Baker and Lena Yarinkura) and western aesthetics were imposed as a major part of the colonisation process. In many situations, traditional practices were forbidden, and technical mastery was preserved in secret.

With the establishment of the mission communities, attempts were made to replace traditional practices by teaching European crafting skills such as ceramic construction (Thancoupie) and decoration (Irene Entata), print-making (Shirley de Vocht and Bronwyn Bancroft) and shellwork (Mavis Longbottom and Lola Ryan). Once these new approaches and techniques were learned, innate creativity and the willingness to embrace and re-purpose new knowledge took over and new products (Esme Timbery) were born.

These new forms provided an opportunity for the makers to comment on the new social order in profound and deeply meaningful ways (Karla Dickens).

Australia's First People are representative of the world's oldest living and evolving cultures. We see this in the work of Grace Lillian Lee who has taken a traditional form of weaving from the Torres Strait Islands - the grasshopper weave -and used it as the foundation for a range of new and exciting ways of expressing the importance of her connection to culture.

We also see these principles built into the work of designers like Nicole Monks whose Nyinajimanha is inspired by the practice of coming together to share knowledge, ideas, identity and visions of the future.