Picturing What Stories Will You Dream?

Art is a great medium through which to explore this year’s theme and reconciliation.

It has long been used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to explore and express ideas, tell stories, and pass on information. Using art as a vehicle for learning can assist students to investigate social realities, explore complex themes and issues and express their ideas creatively. Below is some information about different types of Aboriginal art and artists, some suggested activities and tips to create artwork entries for this year’s challenge.

Below are some of our Art activities and lesson plans – For What Stories Will You Dream?   activities click here.

Interrogating assumptions

What do you think of when you think of “Aboriginal Art”? For many, the image that comes to mind is of the Western Desert style of dot paintings. The truth is Aboriginal art comes in a range of forms and styles – there is no single “type” of Aboriginal art. An artwork will look very different depending on where it was made, when it was made, what it is about and the artist themselves. When we look at an artwork it is always important to think about the artist’s aim when they created it. In other words, “why was this artwork made?” or “what is the artist trying to say?”. For example, many artworks by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people focus on their relationship with the land and connection to Country. Often when we create art, we are showing something about our own identity and what is important to us. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists today may choose to work in a more traditional or modern styles of art making.


Artist: Danielle Mate Sullivan

My passion for art began when I was in high school spending countless lunchtimes on my own in the art room exploring my creativity, and learning, testing and understanding different mediums.

I am a proud Aboriginal woman, who is a descendant of the Murrawari through my Mother’s maternal side and Euahlayi through my Mother’s paternal grandmother and was encouraged by my art teachers to explore my Aboriginal art style. It was then that I went on to study my Bachelor of Creative Arts at Wollongong University NSW.

I’m well in tune with my senses and find my love for nature, animals and the landscape give me inspiration. I also find that smells, sounds and colours also have a big influence on my work.

The Sydney Water Tower at Edmondson Park ( below) was completed in September 2017 artist Danielle Sullivan.

The mural was commissioned by UrbanGrowth (Landcom) in partnership with Sydney Water and Campbelltown Council.

The design features elements of Edmondson Park from the past and present, which are demonstrated through an aerial view. There is a blue line running through the mural which represents Campbelltown Road and aspects from the past like vineyards and market gardens through to Indigenous elements.


Activity 4

Check out Danielle Mate Sullivan’s’ artworks on her website and this article in order to answer the following questions:


  • What can you see first in her artworks?
  • Danielle Mate Sullivan is inspired by nature, animals and the landscapes. How is Danielle Mate Sullivan’s connection to Country expressed in her works?

Artist: Zachary Bennett-Brook

My name is Zachary Bennett-Brook and I am a proud Torres Strait Islander man who lives in Wollongong, Dharawal Country, on the South Coast of NSW. In high school, I discovered my passion to paint the stories and artworks of my culture. My artwork combines my love for surfing and the ocean with my Torres Strait Islander heritage. I create artworks from recycled surf boards and fins, putting a modern twist and my own unique touch on traditional Indigenous Australian art. Growing up in the Gong I have always been surrounded by the ocean and have been addicted to sliding across the ‘ocean hills’ (what I like to call waves). I am a proud Torres Strait Islander man and we are known as the saltwater people. The ocean has always played a vital role in my life and I often draw inspiration from its blue walls and sandy floors. The colours and shapes of the sea are visible throughout my artworks and highlight my respect for the oceans beauty and power. I also draw inspiration from other creative people and their artworks. I love to watch people create, and looking at their final pieces always helps me to develop my own ideas. I strive to produce artworks that are of the highest quality and represent my passion for surfing and my Torres Strait Islander heritage. I believe that every artwork that I craft helps me to grow artistically.

Activity 1


  • What do you like about Zachary’s artworks?
  • What are some of the ways that Zachary represents his love for the ocean throughout his work?
  • Zachary creates his artworks on recycled surfboards and fins, if you could make art on any object what would you choose and why?


Artist: Yvonne Koolmatrie

Yvonne Koolmatrie is a Ngarrindjeri woman who is also inspired by the traditions of her culture. As an adult Koolmatrie attended a workshop on traditional methods of harvesting, preparing and weaving Murray River sedge grass. Koolmatrie found that weaving helped her to overcome personal grief and gave her a portal to tell her story. Koolmatrie
is probably best known for her eel trap weavings. These have aspects
of traditional weaving forms with her own added innovations. She
also depicts her peoples Dreaming stories of Wuluwan (River Bunyiip), Prupi (Child Stealer) and the Rainbow Serpent into woven forms. Koolmatrie sees weaving as a sustaining part of Ngarrindjeri culture and hopes to keep the practice alive through her work.

Activity 2

Research Yvonne Koolmatrie on the Art Gallery of NSW website and answer the following questions:


  • Why is it harder to collect sedge grass than it once was?
  • What does Yvonne Koolmatrie think are her responsibilities as a weaver?
  • What is Yvonne Koolmatrie’s process for creating a 
new weaving?

Activity 3

Research one of the following traditions, movements or category of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

  • Arnhem Land Styles (including X-ray and Rarrk)
  • Hermannsburg School (watercolours)
  • Kimberly Wandjina
  • Shell Art NSW South Coast
  • North Queensland and Tiwi Island Bark paintings
  • Papunya Tula Art Movement
  • Tjanpi Desert Weavers
  • Utopia Style (including bush medicine leaves and colour blocks)
  • Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander photography
  • Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mixed media art and sculpture


  • What are the features of this style?
  • How did this style develop?
  • Who are some of the well-known artists of this style?
  • Find an example of an artwork in this style that you like. What about it appeals to you?

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Explore the 2022 gallery of past winners to get inspiration for creating your own artwork.
  • Have a think about your previous experiences creating art. What are your favourite methods?
  • What do you like to use (pencils, crayons, collage, paint etc.)? You might like to try blending a few styles together.
  • Create an artwork that explores the theme What Stories Will You Dream?  Think about the different ways that you can interpret, understand and creatively express this theme. Share your voice and why you think it is important to listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Think carefully about the medium, colours, designs and symbols you want to use to creatively express your understanding of the theme What Stories Will You Dream? In your artist statement, share with us about your artwork and explain why you chose to creatively express your ideas in the way that you did.
  • Use your own ideas to create your artwork. Make sure it represents the theme What Stories Will You Dream? and explores reconciliation in Australia.

Remember to

Complete an Artist Statement found inside the Art Entry Form and submit your artwork by Friday 1st September 2023 (Term 3, Week 7).

Teachers Click Here

Many of these resources and activities have been developed in consultation with NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) to ensure that the program meets NSW curriculum outcomes for Stages 3, 4 & 5.