Indigenous communities

The art of storytelling with Indigenous communities

I am very fortunate in my work as a graphic recorder and visual artist to get opportunities to picture the story of our Indigenous communities. Indigenous storytelling is the oldest form of sharing stories and I am honoured when asked to use Indigenous symbols in my visual artworks. Below are some examples of my visual storytelling work with Indigenous communities around Australia.

First Nations COVID-19 Research Symposium

I was thrilled to be invited to draw out the important presentations and discussions of the First Nations COVID-19 Research Symposium for APPRISE, the John Ramsay Foundation and the University of Melbourne. This two-day Symposium showcased the research carried out by First Nation-led researchers to support the development of effective responses to COVID-19 for First Nations communities. Day 1 of the Symposium included 10 research presentations about the research to date, “What’s been done?”, and Day 2 focused on the “What next?”, discussing supporting First Nations-led pandemic research and developing a First Nations pandemic research network.

What a pleasure and a privilege to be able to ‘picture’ these important and inspiring research stories. A special thank you to Miranda and Johanna from the University of Melbourne for having me along to picture this research.


Symposium_Artwork selfie_DrSuePillans2023

“Your contribution to the Symposium was fabulous”, Miranda Smith, Academic Specialist, Melbourne Medical School, The University of Melbourne

Northern Territory Aboriginal Leadership & Governance Forum

I was excited to visit Alice Springs for the first time to draw out the important discussions of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Leadership and Governance Forum for the Northern Territory Government. This Forum saw almost 200 Aboriginal leaders gather to share their stories, knowledge and experiences to build long lasting partnerships and communication. This Forum was also full of plenty of deadly laughs and fun with our entertaining MC Kevin Kropinyeri. Thank you for inviting me along to help “picture” Aboriginal leadership and governance in the Northern Territory.


Closing the Gap 

It was a pleasure to draw out the discussions of the “Closing the Gap Community Engagement Forum” held in Mackay for Mackay Hospital and Health Services. The agenda was full of important and urgent issues facing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the region, from health and wellbeing to education, justice housing and economic development. Thank you for the opportunity to picture your stories.


I was also proud to see the photo below being used by Mackay HHS in one of their internal staff training toolkits. What a powerful way to share the stories from this important Forum.

Indigenous fisheries & science

As a Graphic Recorder I was invited by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to work with the Torres Strait Tropical Rock Lobster Fishery stakeholders in their science and training workshops. Graphic recording is a great way to engage with stakeholders, particularly around their fishery science and training needs. I have been fortunate to work with the Torres Strait Lobster fishers for two years now and they are always interested and interactive with my drawings and at times even jump up on the whiteboard with me! This is a Commonwealth fishery managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and you can read about one of the fishery science Workshops I graphically recorded here: Illustrating different ways to communicate with fishery stakeholders.



“I have been to a lot of fishing meetings over the past 30 years and this meeting has to rate as one of the most positive. The way the visual representation engaged and informed everyone must have been a big contributing factor”. Phil Hughes, Torres Strait Fisherimage


: “It was a good idea to trial the use of diagrams and graphics as a way of illustrating workshop themes and issues. Community fisher reps who participated in the workshop could use them visual records as a way of helping to stimulate discussion and communicate information to their respective communities”. Kenny Bedford, Torres Strait Regional Authority, Fisheries Portfolio

Picturing lobster fishery science in Torres Strait!



All smiles for the CSIRO TRL team when picturing the science of the TRL fishery in TI!

Drawing out Indigenous Heritage on the Reef

My latest creative collaboration has been with an Indigenous group and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to create a number of visual stories to help picture Indigenous Heritage and Knowledge on the Great Barrier Reef. To help illustrate the importance of Indigenous heritage values on the Reef I created a number of visuals to communicate the various elements of my clients story. Each visual will be used to help share the story of Indigenous heritage values and knowledge on the Reef with Traditional Owners, GBRMPA staff and Reef stakeholders. You can ‘sea’ more of my creative collaborations as part of my Infographics & Illustrations.


How to beat those boring meeting minutes – visualize them!!

Instead of circulating the standard meeting minutes from our in-depth discussions with the Torres Strait stakeholders I came up with a fun way of collating and sharing the key messages and outcomes from these meetings – by visualizing them! The ‘visual meeting minutes’ are a snapshot of the visual stories I created throughout the meetings plus key statements and feedback from the stakeholders and photos from site visits etc. These meeting minutes really ‘put people in the picture’ by becoming a visual record and a handy point of reference post-meetings.

The feedback (and use) of these visual meeting minutes from stakeholders and my colleagues has been just amazing and it really is a genuine way of engaging with your stakeholders post-meeting versus those stock standard boring meeting minutes using dot points!

*Please note the use of my graphics and visuals need to be attributed to me and remain unaltered unless written permission is given as all graphics and images are Copyright © 2023 Dr Sue Pillans