Earlier in the year, St Dominic’s Priory College year 10 English students engaged in the examination of poetry written in response to works of art (ekphrasis). A focus of the unit was to examine First Nation poets, using works of art for inspiration. Students then wrote their own ekphrastic poem in response to works of art by First Nation artists, as a result of an excursion to AGSA.
- Abbey Norman, Secondary Teacher

Judy Watson, Waanyi people, Queensland, born Mundubbera, Queensland 1959, string over water (alkurrji kingkarri wanami), 2019, Brisbane, synthetic polymer paint, graphite, pastel, watercolour pencil on canvas, 261.0 x 180.5 cm; Acquisition through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP 2019, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, © Judy Watson/Copyright Agency, photo: Carl Warner.

Sparkling specks of light groove on the water’s body.

Sun smiling over the ocean, embracing as the sky swells and blushes blue,

Wading in the body of the sea, bathed in the splitting sun beams,

Cradled lovingly and healed from the rushing stream,

The veins of mothers run through their daughters,

who wind and twist bark to roots and vines,

Roots running through the riverbanks,

Roots running through the collapsing waves.

Ancestors dance on the horizon, inviting the sun to soothe the waters

Ancestors dance through the minds of their kin

Blessing their kin, kissing skin as they wade through the ocean

Healing grazes and scars, A mother tending to their child.

Violent currents ripple through, as tides draw out to the moon,

Yet their hand twisted roots remain ingrained.

Their roots run about country,

About sands slept on

About the thundering waves

About the ever long waters

About us.

By Amelie Peach Winner of the 2023 SAETA Spring Poetry Budding Poet Prize

Iluwanti Ken, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born Watarru, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia c 1944, Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting), 2020, Amata, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, pigmented ink on paper, 122.0 x 152.0 cm; Acquisition through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP 2021, Art Gallery of South Australia, © Iluwanti Ken/Tjala Arts/Copyright Agency, photo: Grant Hancock.

Mother Warrior

Home is heavy with dry, barren land. 

Cracks and old truths threaten

to split family in two.

Red, brown, gold, orange,

lost beneath layers of

strange crowds, strange people.

Food is scarce and the youth

grow weak with foreign blood 

pumping through their veins.

- mothers can only worry.

Air is thick, tension is climbing.

The wiltjas quake with what

little strength they use to stay standing.

These shelters, their once safeguard,

now vulnerable to ugly, unwelcome change. 

Danger is near, fear is apparent. 

Brooded darkness woven within the people

- all for nothing,

for the skies are bright

with taunts of power. 

Time lapses, an ongoing loop of

pain, sleep, repeat.

When seasons change, home grows colder.

Could this be a sign?

Could this be the time?

Thunder whips, presence announced.

Colour - life - emerge from the clouds.

They blend, they blur, they chase bad dreams

in clashes of ashen and onyx, pearly and jet.

A pleasant chill replenishes familiarity,

spirits are lifted with the changing tides.

Grins are shared among Anangu,

as winged shadows come into view.


who teach to care for one’s children, 

who share their stories of wisdom.


who hunt fairly, sparingly,

who build families of love, compassion. 

By Lyana Huynh, published in the 2023 SAETA Spring Poetry collection.

Rover Thomas, Kukatja/Wangkatjunga people, Western Australia, born Yalda Soak, Kunawarritji (Well 33), Western Australia 1926, died Warmun (Turkey Creek), Western Australia 1998, The Story of Owl (Dumbiny), 1988, Turkey Creek, east Kimberley, Western Australia, earth pigments on canvas, 139.0 x 99.0 cm, 143.0 x 103.0 x 5.0 cm (Travel); A.M. and A.R. Ragless Bequest Funds 1988, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, © Artist's estate, Courtesy Warmun Art Centre.

Disregarded feathers

Just an owl is what he sees.

I stand lonely, violently shivering in my tree

Despite the warm midnight air.

Time stands still and

Fear encapsulates me as I meet the eye

Of this tall human.

This little owl,

Traumatised, vulnerable, and also

The perfect victim.

Out walking, and what should I find but an owl?

Oh, the things that those feathers could become.

It is not a want, but a necessity,


My own feathers.

Picked off and fallen to the ground.

That tall being, monster even

Leaving me stripped bare on the dusty brown earth.

I am surrounded

By things so beautiful,

Only able to be described; something as delicate as nature

And yet, here I am, a part of Mother Nature, destroyed,

Harmed, damaged,

At the pleasure of a mere being

Known as a human.

The sights and pleasures generously given to those humans,

Yet they lack the ability to appreciate anything so free and magnificent,

Rather, they would like the world to be under their control,

Their way of life.

Carrying my clump of feathers,

Some escape, landing in the brown dry dust that creates the land I stand on.

It’s okay, plenty more where that came from, right?

These feathers will make perfect necklaces.

However, plucking the feathers from that owl,

I saw the pleading in its eyes.

I ignored it, but it still existed there.

And as I left that creature there, cold, traumatised, and ugly,

I realised I had taken away its true beauty.

The beautiful feathers, now bundled in my coolamon.

The owl’s gift from nature, stolen away in a glimpse.

And who was responsible for that?

I was responsible.

I was responsible.

By Matilda Prouza, the theme for the poem is ‘Mistreatment of Nature’.

Gail Mabo, Piadram clan, Mer (Murray Island), Torres Strait Islands, Queensland, born Townsville, Queensland 1965, Tagai, 2021, Townsville, Queensland, bamboo, cotton, shellac, plastic, 325.0 x 285.0 x 17.0 cm; Acquisition through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP 2022, Art Gallery of South Australia, © Gail Mabo/Copyright Agency.

Wind howls through the forests of bamboo

as I stare into the distance,

waiting for you to come back with heavy nets

to fill the tables for our people.

The sun sinks below the horizon,

as streaks of crimson and coral

slowly paint the once blue sky.

Welcoming the chilling cold.

I hear a thunderous pounding on the shore.

The noise surrounds me.

Like the wind shaking the bamboo

during a ferocious storm.

Beneath the moon’s luminescent glow,

I collect the discarded shells of clams,

choosing only those with small holes.

These will become a necklace for my daughter.

The bamboo begins to stagger.

Bending in the wind,

but always coming back.

As you will too.

The sand is shaped like a starry sky,

Reflecting the darkness from above.

I shiver as I wait,

the salty air bringing me back home.

The bamboo poles stand tall.

Pointing up at the constellations,

each one a map of the skies.

I trust that they will guide you home.

The sand slowly stirs from its rest.

Stars blanket the sky above,

each one a diamond pinprick

on the smooth black night.

On your boat, you are looking at the same sky.

The crossed lines and lights guide you,

keeping you safe

on your way back home.

By Nihaal Muhammad-Tajdar

Frewa Bardaluna, Kuninjku people, Northern Territory, born Maningrida, Northern Territory 1954, died Maningrida, Northern Territory 2019, Samantha Mulkudja, Kuninjku people, Northern Territory, born Maningrida, Northern Territory 1986, Alison Kuwanjguwanj, Kuninjku people, Northern Territory, born Maningrida, Northern Territory 1974, Nawali (pregnant stingray), 2019, Kakodbebuldi, Northern Territory, pandanus (Pandanus spiralis), natural dyes, 178.0 x 85.7 x 1.5 cm; Gift of Helen Bowden 2021, Art Gallery of South Australia, © the artists, Maningrida Arts & Culture/Copyright Agency, photo: Saul Steed.

Whispering Kangkuṟu

A loomed large moon beaming

ethereal radiance across the water,

womenfolk young and old by her

timeworn crystalline home,

recounting stories.

Shhh… the balmy breath of the

breeze advises.

Dancing by the edge of the water,

hoping she carries the gift of life.

Through the hush of the breeze, she

whispers secrets of womanhood

amid her sacred song. Timbre of the

evergreen stringybark wakes in the

night. Richness breaks the surface

of the water, she rises from the

depths, her belly carrying her alluvial

babies. Divine beauty

beyond comprehension,

unrecognisable to any mati. Her

long viscid hair, her brown

timeworn skin, a nature to shelter.

Rising, then silence. Understanding.

Her belly is a beacon. A beacon

whispering ancient secrets. Heard

in the breeze, from the hum of the

dragonfly, the rattle of the snake,

and seen in the eyes of the crocodile.

By Isabella Bauer, a proud Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara young woman