Gubbi Gubbi woman and artist based on Ngunnawal Country, Maggie Jean Douglas, had always dreamed of winning the NAIDOC poster competition and when it happened, she said the hardest part was keeping it a secret.

“I was at work and wanted to scream,” she said.

“I wanted to tell everyone, but I had to keep it a secret for a month!”

Douglas said she had wanted to enter the NAIDOC Week poster competition for a few years but never thought that she could represent previous themes well enough.

In creating her piece Care for Country, Douglas said she resonated deeply with this year’s theme Heal Country and wanted to reflect how healing is holistic.

“When the theme came out and I read the description, I understood why they included all of those elements,” said Douglas.

The NAIDOC website elaborates on the significance of Country, saying: “Country is inherent to our identity. It sustains our lives in every aspect — spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.”

“The last couple of years have been hard for everyone, but with the deaths in custody, the Black Lives Matter movement, the bushfires, it’s been particularly hard for the Indigenous community,” Douglas said.

In her holistic approach she said she wanted to be inclusive of all the Nations across Australia.

“That’s why I used so many colours — I wanted to make sure everyone was able to relate to it,” said Douglas.

 

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While creating the piece she reflected on what healing meant for her personally.

“For me I know that going back home and having time with family and community is really important for my healing, so I included a lot of elements of people together to represent family and community,” she said.

The young artist said incorporating elements of traditional medicine was essential in portraying how cultural knowledge and Country can be physically healing.

“It’s sometimes easy to forget how much bush medicine was used and how important it was and still is, so I included things like wattle and eucalyptus,” she said.

Douglas said having her art recognised on a national level was overwhelming.

“It’s such an honour to be chosen. I’m just really grateful that the NAIDOC Committee thought my artwork represented this year’s theme well enough to be a part of history,” she said.

“It’s amazing to me. It still feels unbelievable.”

Douglas admitted that she did tell her mum that she won but tried not to think about it until the announcement because she would get too excited.

Now able to tell the world and share the meaning behind her piece, Douglas said her focus is on building her portfolio as an up-and-coming artist and giving back to her community.

“I want to build my commission portfolio more and start a business and website,” she said.

“Eventually I want to be able to use my art to give back and just do what I can, wherever I can.”

You can follow Maggie Douglas’ journey and see her upcoming projects on her Instagram @ngalindou.

By Madison Howarth