Empowering Our Next Generations through Design

March 20, 2024

Indigenous Design Labs (IDL) and Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) proudly unveil a pioneering collaboration with a historic initiative poised to champion and spotlight the creativity and community engagement of Indigenous youth.

This partnership not only amplifies the voices of young aspiring designers but also underscores the availability of opportunities for young people in the creative industries, regardless of their location. Indigenous Design Labs is supported by a dedicated team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creative industry mentors who, over the past five years, have been committed to giving back to the community through their work.

Led by Aboriginal designer and business owner Leigh Harris of Supply Nation registered ingeous studios, along with Sheree Jacobs as the lead Torres Strait Islander creative and Tarquin Singleton as the lead Aboriginal creative mentor, the team comprises a group of young, dedicated team of aspiring creatives. The team has gathered each Saturday at the Artview Gallery in Cairns to capitalize on opportunities provided by corporations and organisations throughout Australia and internationally.


“It’s of immense significance to garner recognition and a hand up from major corporations, as it signals the way ahead. Partnerships like these validate what we are doing and shows our young people their is willingness from others to support them on their journey and Close the Gap on opportunity building.”

says Leigh Harris, Indigenous business owner and co-founder of IDL.

Phase one of the collaboration will see IDL creating modern and contemporary print artwork applicable to uniforms, bringing a fresh aesthetic to ADA’s warehousing and manufacturing operational crew.

Phase two of the collaboration will launch an 8-week training program, integrated into a real- world uniform development project, where IDL youth will collaborate with ADA designers to develop a new clothing range from concept to prototype and manufacturing.

The launch will coincide with Closing the Gap Day on 21 March 2024, amplifying the initiative’s significance and sparking conversation around social cohesion and economic empowerment.

Indigenous Design Labs is focused on providing opportunities for young people and advancing Indigenous creativity through the integration of design, culture, and technology.


“We are passionate about ensuring equal opportunities for individuals in regional areas. Partnering with a significant organisation such as ADA, not only grants access to urban opportunities but also empowers us to showcase what is possible. This collaboration enables regional youth to access opportunities previously out of reach, breaking down barriers and supports the creative pathways and aspirations young people may have.”

says Sheree Jacobs, IDL Torres Strait Islander Creative Mentor.

Mel Suares, Lead Design Manager at ADA, expressed her enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “The ADA and Indigenous Design Labs partnership connects our shared desire to shake up the clothing industry while amplifying the voices of young and diverse Indigenous creators.

We are thrilled that these talented designers will be recognised for their exceptional work, which will soon be available for all of our local makers, teams, and broader community. This collaboration represents an exciting new frontier for young artists, opening up conversations that support Indigenous youth and create a world of possibilities for their future.”

Chris Dixon, CEO of ADA, says, “This initiative not only provides valuable paid creative work and mentorship opportunities for young First Nations people but also injects funding into creating real-world opportunities for them to activate their creativity and upskill in the digital and creative design space.”

“At IDL, our team of aspiring young creatives eagerly anticipates what lies ahead. We instill in young people the importance of embracing every opportunity with open hands, whether it involves crafting unique and meaningful designs or weaving our cultures into the realm of creative technology. Each opportunity is seen as a chance to contribute to and enrich the ongoing narrative of Indigenous design.”

says Tarquin Singleton, IDL Aboriginal Creative Mentor.

Sizing collation and fitting for ADA team members are set to occur in mid-May 2024, with final orders set for delivery to ADA HQ by mid-August 2024. The eagerly awaited launch event to celebrate this transformative collaboration will see the Indigenous youth creatives and mentors being flown down to Melbourne from Far North Queensland at the end of August 2024.

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