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Fashion show held for first time in Kiwirrkurra, Australia's most remote Aboriginal community

A group of male models pose at the 2017 Kiwirrkurra Fashion Show
A group of male models pose before the fashion show in Kiwirrkurra, 1,200km east of Port Hedland.

Supplied: Thomas Worrigal

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The most remote Aboriginal community in Australia is helping young people grow through the power of fashion.

Kiwirrkurra, 1,200km east of Port Hedland in Western Australia and 850km west of Alice Springs, recently held its first fashion parade, with the usually quiet Gibson Desert community lit up with bold lighting, pumping music and bright silks.

Backstage, 30-odd locals aged 10 to 25 years preened their hair, applied makeup and donned silk dresses and suits before strutting out on the catwalk.

"It was held at an old tin shade … that was the old store that was burnt down years ago," said youth development officer Thomas Worrigal.

"The stage was made out of the old Kiwirrkurra junk that we found laying around everywhere in the community itself.

"The catwalk was made out of old solar panels. We cut up spinifex, and put rocks around."

A photo showing a makeshift catwalk put together for the Kiwirrkurra Fashion Show
The catwalk was made out of discarded solar panels and decorated with rocks and spinifex.

Supplied

Parade grows out of life skills program

Mr Worrigal said the idea for the fashion parade and pre-show photo shoot had evolved organically.

"We were running a basic life skills program here in Kiwirrkurra, all about grooming and self care," he said.

"Basically they started grooming themselves, dressing themselves and the idea popped in my head.

"So we started writing requests for donations to people from all over Australia in regards to old dresses, suits and shoes."

The community was surprised when Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) posted the request on Facebook and outfits started arriving by post from all over Australia.

"A lot of the silk dresses and men's suits come from Thread Together NSW," Mr Worrigal said.

"They arrived in boxes, all taped up with notes on them saying 'I hope it goes to a good cause'."

A photo of two females getting ready for the Kiwirrkurra Fashion Show
Two female models get ready for the fashion parade.

Supplied: Amanda Sibosado

Chance to get dolled up and feel great

Mr Worrigal said the event complemented the work the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council (NPYWC) Youth Program was doing in the community.

"The main aim to the whole thing, it was about pride, being proud of who you are," he said.

"Confidence-building for a lot of youth.

A photo of three female models taking part int he Kiwirrkurra Fashion Show
In a place rich in Aboriginal culture, a fashion parade helped the isolated community to express itself in a different way.

Supplied: Amanda Sibosado

It is hoped the one-off event will become a regular fixture on the Kiwirrkurra calendar.

"Speaking to the local people from the community … everyone was saying this is the first-ever fashion show that was put on," Mr Worrigal said.

"All the outfits are all stored away ready for the next one."

Lifting the spirit of a remote community

Raymond Olodoodi, a director of the community, believed every member of the 200-strong community had attended the fashion parade.

"It was great, it was a lot of fun, it was really happy," he said.

A photo of a female model in the Kiwirrkurra Fashion Show
"The spirit was happy, motivated, there was all clapping and smiles everywhere," says Thomas Worrigal, who put the event together alongside colleagues Brett Toll and Amanda Sibosado.

Supplied

Mr Olodoodi said sitting in the audience, he felt proud of the community and especially his son who took part in the parade.

"He looked different, he had a nice hairstyle, everything. I was really proud of him, it made everyone happy," he said.

"We live in a remote community and it is a very small community, it is very quiet.

"It was loud when it was fashion night, very different."