TELSTRA NATSIAA: the art prize where there’s no limit on creativity

The 2018 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards are now open for entries. Tell your story to the world on a national stage.
TELSTRA NATSIAA: the art prize where there’s no limit on creativity

Image: Shirley Macnamara winner of the 2017 Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award. Photo (c) Fiona Morrison.

Each year the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), in partnership with Telstra, honours First Nations artists’ with Australia’s longest running and most celebrated Indigenous art awards.

The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA), which offer a total prize pool of $80,000, are open for entries for 2018. Cross-disciplinary artists are especially encouraged to enter.


'We think about the art awards as not just a painting award, which has been really strong for a number of years, but we think about all those other wonderful categories – the Bark Painting Award, the Works on Paper Award, the Multimedia Award, and the Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award,’ said Luke Scholes, Curator of Aboriginal Art, MAGNT.

Artists are only limited by their imagination – a situation reflected in the entries Telstra NATSIAA are currently receiving.

‘The artists are not being put into strict categories,' Scholes told ArtsHub. 'They are also much more adept at changing their materials – they are more willing to experiment.'

Working with something natural

Shirley Macnamara, winner of the 2017 Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award, uses aged spinifex to create intricate works ranging from woven baskets to installation pieces.

‘The spinifex was something I wanted to work in – I needed to work with something natural. Something from the bush. So I found the spinifex, and it’s just been my medium for a long time. It’s been amazing how it’s worked for me,’ Macnamara explained.

Describing her winning piece, Nyurruga Muulawaddi (Aged spinifex), Macnamara said, ‘It was a simple piece. I usually mix mediums; I usually use other materials like bone and feathers, all sorts of things as it all tells a story – but that piece was just a simple piece.’

Enter the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA)

Scholes believes that by experimenting with natural materials and fibres, artists are encouraged to push the boundaries. He is excited about art forms expanding, as well as bold artists coming to the fore and being acknowledged. 

‘You’ve got real envelope-pushers like Robert Fielding, who’s able, willing and talented in different mediums to set out his message. And I think that’s what’s exciting – I think that there's a few shackles being cast aside and artists are really kind of willing to experiment and push themselves,’ he said.

Macnamara encourages Indigenous artists from all over Australia to apply, suggesting that if you don’t get in the first time, keep trying.

‘Telstra NATSIAA was one of the biggest highlights of my career. To be a part of the exhibition is extraordinary, but to win something is incredible. There were beautiful people involved, from the curator to the other artists. Everyone is so lovely. The team at Telstra NATSIAA really take care of you,’ she said.

Scholes urges artists working in unconventional disciplines to enter. ‘I think Telstra NATSIAA is unique in that it has such a history – and it really is the one all the artists want to win. There seems to be a real rise with the success of the APY Art Centre Collective and their artists. This sends a really powerful message. Artists can really see what a wonderful avenue [the Awards] can be for other opportunities.'


The total prize pool is a substantial $80,000. The categories open for artists to enter are:

Telstra Art Award - $50,000

Telstra General Painting Award - $5,000

Telstra Bark Painting Award - $5,000

Telstra Works on Paper Award - $5,000

Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award (also sponsored by Telstra) - $5,000

Telstra Multimedia Award - $5,000

Emerging Artists Award - $5,000


Telstra NATSIAA entries close: Friday, 16 March, 2018

Finalists to be announced: End of April, 2018

Winners will be announced at the Telstra NATSIAA Awards Ceremony and Exhibition Opening on Friday, 10 August, 2018.

To learn more about the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) visit:

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Andrea Simpson

Wednesday 31 January, 2018

About the author

Andrea Simpson is ArtsHub's Feature Writer and Reviews Editor. Andrea is a Filipino-Australian writer with a love for diverse Australian stories. She is curious about all forms of art, though she has an especially keen interest in the publishing sector.

Andrea has had short stories published in various anthologies, and is currently working on her first novel.  

You can follow Andrea on Instagram @andi_jayyy