First Nations doctoral candidate Debbie Taylor Worley will embark on an epic journey back to country after winning a prestigious art scholarship.

The $10,000 Windmill Trust Scholarship from the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) supports artists from regional NSW.

Debbie is a proud Gamilaraay woman, originally from north-west NSW and now based on the Tweed Coast.

The Queensland College of Art student will use the scholarship for a practice-led research trip to visit her family’s ancestral homeland between Tamworth and Walgett in NSW.

“The Windmill Scholarship allows me to take an extended research trip to Gamilaraay Country, my traditional country, to reconnect spiritually and literally to the places of my ancestors and my childhood,” she said.

Debbie Taylor Worley, ‘Beyond Gavrinis’, 2018

“I’ll be investigating places and spaces significant to my culture and personal memories and creating artwork of the landscape, in the landscape and formed by the landscape.”

The talented artist came to Griffith University as a mature age student to join the renowned Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art program. After graduating, she went on to do Honours, and is now completing a Doctor of Visual Art.

“I never thought this would be possible when I first enrolled in my degree. I entered as a mature aged woman who thought I’d improve at a hobby,” she said.

“Instead, I gained a career in the arts as an exhibition coordinator for a Brisbane gallery, a part-time lecturer and arts workshop facilitator, and a practicing artist and academic.”

Debbie’s practice encompasses works on paper to canvas and ceramics, using natural pigments, dyes, ochres and resins.

Queensland College of Art lecturer Dr Fiona Foley also received the Windmill Trust Scholarship in 2018 and was one of this year’s judges. She said Debbie’s work pushed artistic boundaries and represented her strong ties to culture and country.

“Debbie Taylor-Worley’s work is experimental and contains strong geometric patterns based on her Aboriginal forebears of the Gamilaraay nation,” she said.

“This award will take her practice to a new level of art-making on her traditional country.”

Professor Elisabeth Findlay

Queensland College of Art Director Professor Elisabeth Findlay said Debbie was one of many talented graduates of the Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art program receiving national recognition for their work.

“Receiving an award like this can be a turning point in an artist’s career,” she said.

“We are delighted for Debbie and look forward to seeing the body of work she creates as part of the scholarship.”

The Windmill Trust Scholarship was established to help NSW artists living outside metropolitan areas to advance their careers.