Mother-daughter artists create First Nation art for Flying Doctor

Date published

09 Nov 2020

Artwork created by South Australian Aboriginal artists Kelly Taylor and her daughter T’keyah Ware is adorning a new range of RFDS uniforms to reflect our role in supporting remote communities.

Their striking artwork titled RFDS Flight Journey Line was unveiled at the Flying Doctor’s Adelaide base to celebrate NAIDOC Week in November and the design is being replicated on uniforms for Central Operations RFDS staff.

The project marks a powerful connection between the Flying Doctor and the Antakirinja/Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha artists forged 18 years ago.

“The RFDS has a special place in our family’s heart as I have been flown out with RFDS from Ceduna to Adelaide with two of my pregnancies in 1999 and 2002,” Kelly says.

“I went into emergency at the Ceduna hospital when I was pregnant with T’keyah and was then flown to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, I really appreciate everything the Flying Doctor does for the community.”

Kelly tells how the artwork’s storyline represents the Flying Doctor’s role within remote South Australia and Northern Territory where the service flies 24/7 to some of our country’s most remote communities and towns.


“They have a special team of health care specialists to help our most at-risk people and get them to the larger hospitals to receive the best care possible,” Kelly says.

The artwork shows a blue line tracing the plane’s journey past waterholes, remote communities and towns along with showing tracks and trails of the RFDS “past, present and future”.

“Footprints represent the RFDS specialist health care teams in different remote communities and towns,” Kelly says. Blue dots represent the ocean and earth colours, the land.

Three generations have had a hand in the artwork produced by the First Nations artists with Kelly saying it was her late grandmother Millie Taylor (nee Lennon) who will always be her greatest influence and who first encouraged her to paint.

“My Nana Millie was my teacher, she always encouraged me to paint and passed many ancient stories down along the way,” Kelly says.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service called for expressions of interest earlier this year from South Australian or Northern Territorian Indigenous artists interested in a paid collaboration to create a bespoke design for a new range of staff apparel.

Based in Ceduna in South Australia, the mother and daughter artists supporting the Flying Doctor, create their pieces at home and sell their work on Facebook under Kelly and T’Keyah Aboriginal Fine Art. 

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Indigenous culture and history

A Port Augusta staff member first came up with an idea to create a special Flying Doctor uniform to celebrate Indigenous culture and history last year, eventually leading to the unveiling of the beautiful new artwork by Premier Steven Marshall as part of our NAIDOC Week celebrations.

Many were particularly drawn to artists Kelly Taylor and T’keyah Ware’s story about the Flying Doctor having a “special place in our family’s heart” after being flown to the Royal Adelaide Hospital from Ceduna during Kelly’s pregnancy.

“It would be absolutely amazing to have an opportunity to create a special design recognising all the hard work from RFDS and team,” the mother and daughter said in their submission.

Mandy Smallacombe, RFDS Manager Primary Health Care and RAP Committee Member, says the bespoke uniform design has been an important project.

Health clinicians entering and engaging with Aboriginal communities through remote South Australia and Central Australia needed to deepen their understanding about diversity and Aboriginal cultural groups, she says. 

“Strengthening our relationships with First Nation leaders and community members by leading community consultation, communication and consent are valuable steps towards a collaborative and trusted partnership in improving health outcomes,” she says.

“I am really excited to have a visual commitment of our pledge to cultural safety. I know our new shirts will be embraced and worn with pride by all our staff, and I can’t wait to see the faces of our remote community members on their ‘maiden flight’.”

As a key provider of health services in rural and remote Australia, the RFDS is also committed to the “Close the Gap” campaign to improve both health outcomes and access to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The RFDS identifies that enhanced cultural competency of current staff, as well as training, employment, and support of more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in health and aviation roles is necessary for the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to improve.