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Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award

The Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award is a national biennial award that identifies new talent in the art of children’s picture book illustration. 

Awarded to an Indigenous artist or emerging illustrator, the winner receives $10,000, a professional mentorship and the opportunity to illustrate a children’s picture book by a renowned Indigenous author.

The award seeks to address industry demand for Indigenous illustrators, support emerging illustrators to develop their craft and encourage Indigenous artists who haven’t illustrated before. The award is generously supported by the Harry Kestin Foundation.

'We are excited by the potential to expand creative career options for Indigenous artists. It brings together our family's intrerest in fine art, storytelling and Indigenous empowerment.' - Kestin Foundation representative, Harry Kestin. 


Applicants must be:
  • An Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person'; 
  • Living in Australia;
  • Over 16 years of age and able to provide consent from a parent or guardian if between 16-18 years of age
  • Previously unpublished or with no more than two (2) published titles (self-published or with publishing house)
  • Willing to commit to an illustration mentorship that may extend to more than 12 months
  • Applicants will be asked to interpret and respond to a sample manuscript. Submissions should include:
    • two illustrated 'spreads' 
    • sketches/roughs of the design process
  • Entries will be judged on the merits of the illustrations submitted and the application. Prior achievements or qualifications will not form part of the judging process.
  • Illustrated spreads and application forms are entered via post or email.
  • Entries must be received by Magabala Books by or before award closure date.

Original illustrated spreads must be submitted via post. This entry form, supporting docs and sketches may be sent via email to:

Your email subject line should read: Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award entry.

 2019 Winner - Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

Pictured: Charmaine Ledden-Lewis' winning spreads.

The 2019 Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award was won by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis. Charmaine is a Bundjalung freelance artist and mother of two boys from Blackhealth, NSW.

In 2019 Charmaine worked with a professional mentor to develop her illustrations for publication. She illustrated Bruce Pascoe’s first children’s book, Found, published in 2020. Found was shortlisted for the 2021 ABIA Small Publisher's Children's Book of the Year.

'I’m deeply humbled and grateful to be embarking on a venture of learning and collaboration with such a well-respected author as Bruce Pascoe, and for the industry experience and career guidance I will gain with the Magabala publishing team. Mostly, I am delighted to be presented with the opportunity to make my family proud and share this journey with my sons, who love art and books as much as I do.' - Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

2017 Winner - Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr

Pictured: Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr's winning illustrations as published in 'Little Bird's Day'.

The inaugural Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award was won by Gapuwiyak artist Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr in 2017.

Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr is a Yolŋu man from the Ganalbingu clan and is known for his paintings of Ganalbingu song lines as well as his mother’s Wägilak clan stories. Johnny lives in the remote East Arnhem Land community of Gapuwiyak, where he is Chair of the Gapuwiyak Arts and Cultural Centre.

Illustrating the manuscript of renowned author and illustrator Sally Morgan, Johnny worked with Magabala Books to bring his fine-art aesthetic, traditional motifs and quirky sense of humour to Little Bird’s Day, which was launched on 26th March 2019 at the CBCA NSW AAA Professional Development Conference in Sydney. A simple, universal story of a day in the life of Little Bird as she sings the world alive, Little Bird's Day is now a best-selling release.

‘When I heard I had won the award I felt really proud with my whole family. I like it that kids can learn reading and see my artwork. I hope kids around Australia will like this book.’ - Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr

Pictured: Kestin Award winner Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr and Magabala Chair Edie Wright read 'Little Bird's Day' at Barangaroo Early Learning Centre, Sydney

Pictured: Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr reads 'Little Bird's Day' to school kids in his community, Gapuwiyak.

Pictured: 2019 Kestin Award winner Charmaine Ledden-Lewis with 2017 Kestin Award winner Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr at the launch of 'Little Bird's Day'