Firing up to generate income

Community stories: 23 April 2019

In 1948 the Presbyterian missionaries established a craft room in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankanytjatara (APY) Lands at the eastern end of the Musgrave Ranges in far north-west South Australia. The first crafts produced were hand-loomed woven fabrics and hand-pulled and knotted floor rugs with a unique pattern that became known as ‘the Ernabella walka’ or ‘anapalayakuwalka’ (Ernabella’s design). 

From these small beginnings, the Ernabella Arts Centre has grown to become the oldest continuously running – and one of the most successful – Indigenous arts centre in Australia. Ernabella is perhaps best known for its ceramics, with many artists’ works featuring in shops and galleries across Australia, and in collections both here and overseas. 

Today, the Centre supports more than 100 artists and generates vital income for the community, which has very few local employment opportunities. The ceramic artists include a core group of 25 young Aboriginal mothers. Unfortunately, they were unable to operate at capacity and did not have room for new members due to a faulty kiln. 

With the support of the Bertalli Family Foundation, FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities program provided a grant of $4,640 that enabled a second kiln to be brought back into use. Hannah Kothe, on behalf of Tjunkay Tapaya of Ernabella Arts, explains that its repair has been even more successful than they imagined.