Design Tracks: discovering new perspectives


Design Tracks Creative Pathways Program is a three-day residential program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary students from Queensland schools. Hosted annually by QAGOMA Learning, ‘Design Tracks’ brings together students from metropolitan, regional and remote locations who work alongside guest mentors from the Creative Industries. The program provides participants with an immersive experience that enables them to develop skills and build confidence within a peer-led environment. The students explore creative practices, gather inspiration and discover new perspectives as they work together on a creative project.

In 2020, ‘Design Tracks’ looked a little different due to COVID-19 restrictions. The program was delivered virtually with students from seven schools — Foxwell State Secondary College (Coomera), James Nash State High School (Gympie), Nambour Secondary College, Meridan State College (Caloundra), Toowoomba State High School, Brisbane School of Distance Education and St Ursula’s College (Toowoomba).

Kit of materials sent to students for the Design Tracks virtual workshop

The virtual workshop ‘Pigment and Paper: Explorations in Poetry and Art’ involved papermaking, poetry and writing and creating pigments to develop personal responses to NAIDOC Week theme ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’. The students developed creative pieces using a kit of materials supplied by QAGOMA Learning. Guest mentors included artist Dale Harding — Bidjara, Ghungalu, Garingbal (Central QLD), artist and designer Jenna Lee — Larrakia, Wardaman (NT) Karajarri (WA), and author and poet Ellen van Neerven — Mununjali Yugambeh (SE QLD). 

Debbie Brittain is Project Officer QAGOMA Learning

Foxwell State Secondary College Visual Art teacher, Jody Swader and Head of Inclusion, Victoria Leadbeatter explain their students’ experience of 2020 ‘Design Tracks’.

‘You may have heard that Design Tracks was a little different for everyone in 2020 but as a Foundation School this was our students very first chance to engage with the program…and it didn’t disappoint. The different delivery mode afforded our young students with the opportunity to be a part of this unique and exciting program, helping them build connections with older students and role models through the online learning platform.

With growing anticipation and enthusiasm of the program starting our students received their resource packages from QAGOMA, which gave them a glimpse into the culturally meaningful and engaging program that lay ahead. Through Paper, Pigment and Poetry our students explored their own connection to country and experimented with different modes of expressing themselves.

Visiting QAGOMA in 2021 as a culminating event was a first time to a gallery for some of our students and they were awestruck as they were able to tour the exhibition of Gordon Bennett and see Dale Harding’s artworks. Three Foxwell students were honoured to be chosen to work with David Williams from Gilimbaa to voice record the combined poetry piece created by all students.

The Design Tracks program was certainly an incredible opportunity for our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, giving them an unforgettable experience to work alongside established Indigenous Australian creative artists and mentors, and to be inspired by the Creative Industries. Through the Design Tracks program, our students learnt the importance of connecting today with yesterday and tomorrow, and how they can use creativity as a means of sharing and celebrating culture.’

Design Tracks mentor artist Dale Harding discusses his artworks with the students
Design Tracks students explore ‘Unfinished Business: The Art of Gordon Bennett’

Know Brisbane through the QAGOMA Collection / Delve into our Queensland Stories / Read more about Australian Art / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes

Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution First Australians make to the art and culture of this country.

It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name or reproduce photographs of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.


Design Tracks: Creative Pathways and Beyond


‘Design Tracks’ is an annual residency program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary students from across Queensland.  Hosted by QAGOMA Learning, the 2019 program recently offered 21 students from Far North, Central and Western Queensland, as well as South-East and metropolitan locations rich opportunities to work alongside established Indigenous Australian creative mentors.

The program, now in its fourth year, encourages participants to feel inspired by the Creative Industries and to perhaps consider their own future career pathways. The students spent an immersive 3-days in Brisbane, collaborating, exploring, designing, learning and experiencing together. Four students share their thoughts about 2019 ‘Design Tracks’.

Debbie Brittain is Project Officer, Learning, QAGOMA

RELATED: Design Tracks

Left to right: Jamaya (Bundaberg); Latasha (Rockhampton); Ishy (Cherbourg); Brooke (Bundaberg) / Photographs: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Jamaya (Bundaberg)

“I had an amazing ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. I explored behind the scenes of the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art and the steps exhibition organisers had to work through to display the story of famous artworks.

I was put into a team with new friends and talented mentor Grace Lillian Lee. I was so excited to meet with Grace, as she is one of the most incredible Indigenous fashion designers and weavers of wearable body art. Our task was to create a place in the cultural precinct that weaves together art, language and space. After a full first day of planning and processing ideas, we went for a walk through Fish Lane, and saw displays of amazing Indigenous art and restaurants.

Day 2 was more of a resolving day. Our group ‘The Backups’ considered each other’s ideas and decided to create a project that included common themes that weave through art, language and space. Later that evening, we were taken to Griffith University and explored the courses they offered and met more famous mentors. After that we went behind the scenes of the Bangarra Dance performance and explored before-and-after a performance – it was mind blowing.

Day 3 was a busy day, getting our ideas into pieces of work and organising our presentations. At the end it all came together and we were very proud of ourselves. This was an amazing program and I would recommend every Indigenous art student to explore this opportunity. Let’s make it a week’s program.” Jamaya

RELATED: Grace Lillian Lee: Island Fashion

Students hear from one of the 2019 Design Tracks Program lead mentors Grace Lillian Lee as she discusses her practice / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA
Students work together to resolve their creative project / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA

Latasha (Rockhampton)

“Being able to experience art being used in a real life context, sold the idea that art can provide a viable career pathway for me.  I was fortunate enough to spend time with other aspiring, like-minded, Indigenous students who shared my passion for art, at the Gallery of Modern Art.  The Program, a three-day residential camp, involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior secondary students coming together with other Cultural Centre precinct partners to work with Indigenous Australian mentors.  Along with 20 other students from years 10 to 12 we were exposed to design, print-making, textiles, visual art and architecture.

For a student from a regional area who has never really experienced Brisbane, it was a valuable exercise in seeing creative opportunities in action and opening my eyes to where my art can take me.  It was refreshing to be placed with a group of young Indigenous people who wanted to be there and work towards a common goal.

One idea that will always resonate with me, as explained by one of my mentors, is that any art created by me is Indigenous art, simply by the fact I am Indigenous and I created it. I would highly recommend this program for any aspiring Indigenous artist.” Latasha

Some of the 2019 Design Tracks participants, including 9 students from regional Queensland schools / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Ishy (Cherbourg)

“The experience was an eye-opener for me as a young Indigenous male getting to spend time at the gallery. I really enjoyed working with the mentors, looking at artworks and meeting other Indigenous students from different schools.” Ishy

Ishy and Design Tracks lead mentor Sachem Parkin-Owens learn more about the QLD Museum Indigenous Australian Collection in a behind-the-scenes-tour that focussed on Country / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA
Group members presented their projects to guest panel members on the final day of the program / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

Brooke (Bundaberg)

“The Design Tracks Program at the Gallery of Modern Art was an amazing experience and I’m so proud to have been a part of it. The program as a whole was insightful, educational and inspiring, especially the half-day round table mentor experience. It opened my eyes to all the possibilities in the world of Indigenous art. I networked, made contacts and lifelong friends in an industry I am passionate about and wish to pursue into the future. It gave me an insight to the running of GOMA and other art galleries as well as seeing what happens behind the scenes in the life of a curator, artist, performer or a member of the conservation and storage teams. I learnt so much about life as a professional in the art world. It was an amazing experience working with the mentors over the three days to create our project and was an honour to be selected for such an amazing program.” Brooke

Design Tracks program included an exhibition viewing and talk about ‘I Object’, provided by Indigenous Australian Art curator Bruce McLean / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA
Design Tracks participants work in groups with their mentors to explore, gather, create and connect / Photograph: Josef Ruckli © QAGOMA

Subscribe to YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / Hear artists tell their stories / Read about your Australian Collection

Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land upon which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution Indigenous people make to the art and culture of this country.

Feature image: Students worked creatively to develop a response to the brief ‘create a place in the Cultural Precinct that weaves together language, art and story’ / Photograph: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA


Art speaks many languages


August is Queensland Multicultural Month and a visit to QAGOMA can be someone’s first experience of another culture.

Guided tours at QAGOMA provide an accessible and enjoyable way to celebrate cultural diversity. Volunteer Guides regularly offer tours to visitors from a range of cultural backgrounds and locations. Visitors from overseas are usually keen to see works by Indigenous Australian artists and to engage with the incredible variety of artwork from Australia and the Asia-Pacific region that is on display at both QAG and GOMA.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US. Have you been on one of our guided tours?

BLOG-Queensland Multicultural Month-3

BLOG-Queensland Multicultural Month-1

These key areas of the Collection are also of interest to local groups from English Language Colleges, International Colleges at local tertiary institutions, study tours and multi-cultural community associations. The tour experience provides opportunities for cross-cultural learning and assists the participants in developing their language and communication skills.

The volunteer guide often includes contextual illustrations, maps and photographs to encourage understanding and connection with the artwork. Meaning is also sometimes translated through gesture or word association, and guides are rewarded in the shared moments of excitement, pleasure and awe expressed by tour participants. The vibrant Indigenous Australian Collection artworks and Queensland colonial paintings are especially popular with international students keen to explore local history and culture.

Through visual narratives, visitors from all corners of the globe are able to develop new insights, or discover commonalities that lead to the shared pleasure of multi-cultural inclusive connections.

Susan Rothnie, Volunteer Guide Training Officer
Debbie Brittain, Education Services Officer

Contact the QAGOMA Group Bookings Office
T: (07) 3840 7255

Art and Dementia Tours stimulate conversation



Our unique Art and Dementia tours last about an hour at a relaxed pace with seating provided in front of each artwork to enable your loved one time to discover aspects of the work that appeal to them. Four specially selected works are highlighted on each free tour, tailored to consider various themes and interests.

Tours are designed to stimulate conversation through observation, reflection and reminiscence. Our volunteer guides share stories and highlights about each work which encourages the sharing of feelings and experiences; the intimate environment enables the participant to connect socially within a small group setting and listen to others or contribute to the conversation; and opportunities arise to discover new things to spark and ongoing curiosity.

An artwork reminder and description about each work is a take-home memory of the tour which aims to encourage further conversation and provides their carer with a resource or stimulus to share, following the tour.

QAGOMA Art and Dementia tours are available for those with dementia living in home-based care, residential homes, and for clients in day respite centres and hospices.

Debbie Brittain is Project Officer, Learning, QAGOMA



Bookings in advance are required and are subject to availability and tour capacity. Tours are suitable for people living at home, for community and day respite groups or residential aged care homes. Contact the Group Bookings Office at or telephone (07) 3840 7255 to arrange a booking.

Know Brisbane through the QAGOMA Collection / Delve into our Queensland Stories / Read more about Australian Art / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes


Reaching out to schools: Destination APT8



Students from Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital School described the colourful rainforest in Yumi Danis (We Dance) project as ‘amazing’

What is the most common obstacle for schools in offering class excursions?

The answer is the expense, and more specifically, the cost of transportation. Excursions have to be free or fund-raised. So for many classes, leaving the school grounds to experience learning in an off-campus setting is out of their reach.

For the past 6 weeks, via the generous support of sponsor Santos GLNG, the Gallery’s Learning team has been reaching out to schools in the greater Brisbane area and bringing classes to the gallery. Fifteen classes from primary and secondary schools in Logan, Ipswich, Redcliffe amongst others have had the opportunity to experience the dynamic APT8 exhibition and APT8 Kids interactives, cost-free. The Santos GLNG school program covered the bus transport costs and included a delicious lunch pack for the entire class and their teacher. The Learning team hosted each class for a day, providing guided tours and APT8 class resources.



]Seville Road State School and Mabel Park State High School students exploring Nge Lay’s The Sick classroom 2013

The Gallery excursion offered many firsts for the students, with outcomes that are far reaching. For some students, this was their first-ever school excursion! For others, seeing the mirrored city skyscrapers of the CBD and the Brisbane River as they approached GOMA was an awesome first-time experience. And one teacher commented that this was the first day all term that every student in her Year 2 class turned up at school!

For most of the students, who ranged in age from 7 to 17 years, this was their first time at an Art Gallery. The students can now visualise the physical space that is QAGOMA, and answer the question ‘what is an Art Gallery?’ They also now know a lot about APT8. Experiential learning is at the heart of education because it provides experiences that are personally relevant, and the APT8 excursion definitely ticked this box.


Students discovering the sound activations in Asim Waqif’s installation All we leave behind are the memories 2015

The class from the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital School arrived eager to explore (in their words) ‘the incredible APT8 exhibition’. The students explained that the mood on the bus was ‘one of extreme excitement’. Back at class, they reflected on some of their favourite APT8 memories; ‘the huge wood structure that made noise’, ‘the scenes of an amazing rainforest’, ‘the five cars projected on a wall’ and the ‘lovely lunch under the Bodhi Tree’. The secondary school classes came away from the Gallery being ‘inspired to be creative with their practical art assessment’.

The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital School students receiving a guided tour with Head of Learning, Terry Deen
Students engaging in learning beyond the classroom setting

With nearly 20,000 school students having visited APT8, the QAGOMA Learning team is extremely grateful to have been able to reach out and connect with the 384 primary and secondary students who participated in the Santos GLNG school program. Their teachers have told us that their visit was ‘a day that the students will never forget’.

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT)
is the Gallery’s flagship exhibition focused on the work of Asia, the Pacific and Australia.
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016

Exhibition Founding Sponsor: Queensland Government
Exhibition Principal Sponsor: Audi Australia
APT8 Kids Principal Benefactor: Tim Fairfax Family Foundation
Major Education Sponsor: Santos GLNG