Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) proudly announces an industry-first collaboration with Indigenous Design Labs (IDL), marking a significant milestone set to champion and showcase Indigenous youth creativity and community engagement.

Chris Dixon, CEO of ADA, emphasised the significance of this collaboration within the Defence and manufacturing sectors, stating, “This pioneering partnership not only represents a groundbreaking endeavour in crafting new apparel, but also underscores ADA and IDL’s commitment to driving positive change and fostering cultural appreciation within Australia’s apparel manufacturing landscape, aligning closely with ADA’s Reconciliation Action Plan. Through innovative design, community engagement, and social responsibility, ADA and IDL are poised to set new standards for inclusive practices.”

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.

Leigh Harris, Indigenous business owner of ingeous studios and IDL Founder highlighted, “Indigenous Design Labs consist of a team of young creatives focusing on abstract and contemporary designs that reflect a diverse representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. We view every opportunity as a chance to contribute to and expand upon the ongoing narrative of Indigenous design.”

Sheree Jacobs, IDL Torres Strait Mentor, added, “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 paving the way for a brighter future.”

Casey Demko, Designer at ADA, who is leading the partnership, shared her insights: “Growing up in rural Victoria, I was really excited about this partnership with IDL. I understand, first-hand, the difficulties faced by young Australians wishing to pursue creative career paths and the lack of industry partnerships available to remote communities, which can be really empowering for young people . This program will be a platform to connect indigenous and non-indigenous communities through clothing and art, representing ADA’s commitment to driving meaningful change and nurture diversity and inclusion amongst the wider community whilst representing ADA’s values and commitment to meaningful change.”

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.”

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.