Author: 
Shelley Dunlop, QCOSS
Nandjimadji art group

You can now access a series of resources that showcase best practice HACC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service delivery models. 

The three booklets tell the stories of innovative and positive service delivery practices that meet the cultural needs of their communities.

Through these publications (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), HACC organisations and service providers have the opportunity to showcase their initiatives and to learn of activities and service models other HACC services are implementing.

One of the many of the exciting and informative stories you can find is of the Nandjimadji art group:

Lightening the Load through Art

"Nandjimadji, which means “to lighten the load” in the Gubbi Gubbi language, is the name of the local Aboriginal art group which gathers on the Sunshine Coast. Members of this art group are Aboriginal artists who are living with a disability or are carers of a person with a disability.

This group was initially formed when Paul Calcott, Client Service Integration Manager at Suncare Community Services, received a number of referrals for respite care though a local Indigenous Health worker. Paul, being an artist himself, noticed that many of the people he assessed for respite care shared an interest in art and thought that art was a great way to bring everyone together.

Paul says that the Nandjimadji group has many benefits. It gives people a reason to leave the house and participate in a meaningful activity; it also provides people with an opportunity to use their creativity. It connects the artists to their culture, creates a safe space for yarning and provides an opportunity for the artists’ carers to have a break. “Friendships are forming amongst people who before this group formed were not even leaving their flats,” says Paul.

Nandjimadji meets regularly at the Maroochydore Community Centre. The group has grown over time and now has over 12 people aged between 11 and 60 joining every week. “We have never had to advertise the group. People have heard about it through word of mouth and we are seeing people come along who we may never have come across otherwise,” says Paul.

The Nandjimadji art group held their first art exhibition at the Novotel Twin Waters Resort during NAIDOC week this year. On opening night over 100 guests arrived to view the artwork and share some bush tucker. Paul said that a year ago many of the artists would not have gone to a function with more than three people yet during the week of the exhibition the artists proudly stood by their work and were available to answer questions. The exhibition at the Novotel was a great success and many of the Nandjmadji artists were pleased to have sold their work.

Suncare Community Services initially provided the group with some basic art supplies, however a community grant through the Sunshine Coast Regional Council and the profits from the art exhibition at the Novotel have allowed the group to purchase further supplies. “They have been able to get some really good quality art supplies through a local wholesaler and this has really reinforced that their artwork is quality stuff,” says Paul.

Paul recommends that any organisation wishing to establish an art group similar to Nandjimadji group should ensure that the artists involved have ownership of the group. “The Nandjimadji artists all help out in setting up for a gathering and if they choose to sell their artwork they are all encouraged to put a small percentage of their sales back into the group for the purchase of supplies,” says Paul. By contributing to costs of canvases and paints the artists own the group. Paul also recommends that groups are set up as a peer support rather than a formal art class where people can get together and yarn while creating art.

Following the success of Nandjimadji, Suncare Community Services has established similar art groups in Nambour and Zillmere. The Novotel has agreed to display and sell the work of Nandjmadji artists on a regular basis."

You can read the whole range of best practice stories here:

These resources were produced as part of the Community Services Skilling Plan: an initiative of the Queensland Government that worked on a diverse range of workforce and sector development initiatives for the Department of Communities, Home and Community Care (HACC) Services.

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