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ABSTUDY ads use Aboriginal artwork

To better reach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences, the government started using Aboriginal artwork on their advertisements.

The Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme (ABSTUDY) helps Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who have left school and want to study ...

Department of Education ABSTUDY brochure and poster, 1979
Attachment Size
abstudy-tiwi-bird-poster-brochure.pdf 2.47 MB
Attachment Size
abstudy-brochure-and-poster.docx 84.71 KB
About the artefact

In the late 1970s, government departments started using Aboriginal artwork to appeal to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These materials, including a poster and a brochure to advertise ABSTUDY, are early examples of this.

ABSTUDY was financial support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples completing higher education. It started in 1969 and is still available today.

The products feature an Aboriginal artwork and the colours of the Aboriginal flag. The artwork is titled ‘Bird design by Tiwi people, Northern Territory’ and was created by Giovanni Tupungwati.

Initially, the government advertised ABSTUDY in plain text articles in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander publications. These products show a shift to a more eye-catching communication style. The poster was large and could go up at schools, universities, TAFEs and government offices.

The poster and brochure include lots of information and the text talks directly to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audience. The amount of information suggests ABSTUDY wasn’t very well known at the time. Later examples of ABSTUDY posters included minimal text.

Source details

The artwork of the Tiwi bird featured on the brochure and poster is credited to Giovanni Tupungwati. You can see a later version of this Arlipiwura design in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art online. In the bottom corner of the print is a stamp of the Tiwi Design logo.

With fellow artist Bede Tungutalum, Tupungwati founded Tiwi Design art centre in 1969 at Nguiui, Bathurst Island, Northern Territory. They produced woodblock prints, printed textiles and carvings.

The artwork was adapted by the Department of Education for use in this ABSTUDY promotional material.

Copies of the original brochure and various versions of the poster are held by AIATSIS.


Permission to reproduce the Tiwi Bird design was granted by Steve Anderson of Tiwi Designs, who consulted with family members.


Department of Education (1979) Study Grants Scheme for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders [printed brochure], Australian Government, Canberra.

Department of Education (1979–1984) Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders: Abstudy can help you [printed poster], Australian Government, Canberra.