Whether photographer Marley Morgan is with or without her camera, she is a woman deeply interested in the world around her – it’s evident whether she’s discussing her favourite natural beauty finds, or connecting with the stories of one of her subjects. She told us about her joy in figuring out the Curly Girl Method, which products she swears by to deal with eczema, and her love for ‘70s fashion. Marley also shared her own difficult journey through early motherhood and the respect she has for others in that life stage, the importance of being kind to oneself, especially when things get rough, and how caring for the environment has been instilled in her - and why it matters that it be instilled in all of us.

“As someone with eczema-prone skin, it has been a real journey finding products that are suitable for it.

The Baagi Milaygiin skincare range has been a major help, and has prevented eczema outbreaks. I usually start off cleaning my skin with their cleanser (it smells like Lemon Myrtle, which is a plus!) followed by their Toner. Then I apply Lazy Girl Green’s vitamin C oil, followed by Endota’s Sensitive Repair Moisturiser. If I have any breakouts, I will add a little bit of Endota’s Blemish Control Serum.

For skin treatments, my favourite salon is Endota Spa in Coffs Harbour. The service there is exceptional and the treatments are just so divine.

Because of my eczema I have to be very selective with which makeup products I use, as many can trigger an outbreak. My current favourite brand is Wondery Skin Food.

When I am in a rush and need to quickly put on my face, I will use their Beach Face tinted cream as my base. Then I apply their Wild Citrus Luminizer on my cheeks and a little on my nose, forehead, and chin for a natural bronzy glow. My skin has been absolutely loving these products!

I have naturally very thick, curly hair, and during the colder season it can be quite unruly and dry.

I have recently begun practicing the Curly Girl Method, and it has been life changing. I have also found that going organic and only using natural products has really helped my hair grow and become healthier. I used to try so many different things when I was younger, but these days I just wash it twice a week using apple cider vinegar, then moisturise it with coconut oil or olive oil. My go-to salons are Harlow & Co and At Mindys Salon 44, both in Coffs Harbour.

I have always been fascinated by photography. I originally started as a hobbyist and eventually decided to make it my profession.

During my journey as a photographer I have met some incredible and inspiring people, and have developed a really strong love for the industry.

It has also been amazing to use my own skills to be able to uplift other First Nation businesses; I have been lucky enough to build some incredible, long lasting friendships this way. I’ve offered my photography services to help build social media profiles and websites, and have also been a support system for people. I’ve already gone through the experience of starting a brand new business, so I am glad to pass it forward.

I understand it can be hard to verify whether brands are legitimate Blak businesses (and for more information on this issue, I’d really recommend heading over to Trading Blak), but a few that I believe to be worth a look for both being owned by and celebrating First Nation people are: Willow & Co for organic skincare, Take Pride MovementGinnys Girl Gang and Garuwa Clothing for fashion, Haus of Dizzy and Bush Magic Metal for jewellery, Koorie Prints and Bobbi Lockyer for art and design, and Jarin Street for yoga gear.

IMAGE: “Aila wearing ochre sourced from country”

My photography portfolio is diverse and I enjoy all of my work, but my absolute favourite shoots are motherhood sessions. There is something so special about raw motherhood – seeing a mother at her most comfortable, stripped down, vulnerable.

My own experience with pregnancy and early motherhood was difficult. I don’t think being a mother discriminates when it comes to race – it can be tough for anyone. I had a physically demanding pregnancy, with extreme morning sickness, and it wasn’t helped by being so isolated (at the time I lived in an area without any family or friends around).

IMAGE: “Photographic and art collaboration with Earth Blended

I overcame my struggles adjusting to motherhood through self-care, and through finding a great support system.

I took the time to exercise and really look after myself. I also focused on my mental health through meditation and practicing more self-love – trying to be a little more kind, rather than being so hard on myself. In terms of creating a support network, I really put myself out there. I reconnected with family, but I also stopped staying home so much and actively tried to meet new people, which I was so grateful to be able to do through my work.

We as First Nation people face many challenges during our lives, not least of which is that our lifespans are shorter than non-Indigenous people.

Our family and friends pass away at a faster rate, and I have lost a lot of loved ones much too soon. It’s very difficult and very unfair. Closing The Gap is incredibly important, so that we can ensure my generation and those to come can live long and healthy lives.

I am very involved with a charity group called the Happy Boxes Project – we help supply women in remote communities with toiletries, clothing, and other essentials, bought via donations. We aim to support the empowerment of women through alleviating the barriers that are put up automatically when you don’t have your basic needs met.

I spent my younger years living in Central West NSW, and then when I was 10, moved to my father’s country in Lightning Ridge. It was an amazing change, as we were suddenly surrounded by family.

Growing up in a small, remote town was amazing. It taught me to appreciate the little things, including the few resources we had, and how to make my own fun using my imagination. Lightning Ridge has an incredibly resilient and uplifting community, one which has been supportive of me since I was a child.

IMAGE: “Dunghutti Model Kirralee Faulkner

Caring for country is very important, both for myself and for my culture.

Dark Emu and The Biggest Estate On Earth are two books that focus on the Aboriginal cultural practices still being used in modern times, which are very beneficial to the land. It’s essential for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to read and learn about these practices (a key example of which is incorporating traditional burning practices, to help prevent bushfires).

I love to be out in nature to relax.

Even though it’s also my work, photographing nature is a major release for me – I enjoy getting out with my camera and capturing it, especially native flora. Going for bush walks with my partner and kids always puts my mind at ease, and makes me feel free of any worries.

I also have some custom blends by Earth Blended, which I use before beginning my day and at the end of it. My favourite is the Ochre Cleansing Spray from the Sacred Country range, which is for cleansing negative energy and spirits, which are not good to have around us. At the end of each day, I like to use my custom oil blend to unwind, as a self-care ritual.

I like to take good care of my body and my overall health.

I drink a lot of water, at least eight glasses a day, and try to eat a very well-balanced diet, limiting my sugar intake. I try focus on protein and adding in plenty of lean meats to help with working out. I am definitely a pasta addict, though. My favourite recipe at the moment is Spicy Garlic Butter Linguine, which is very simple and easy to make. The only ingredients you need are spaghetti, unsalted butter, minced garlic, chilli flakes, soy sauce, oyster sauce, parmesan and olive oil. I found the recipe thanks to the Youtube channel, Marion’s Kitchen.

I try to exercise whenever I can, at least three times a week. I usually do a mix of weight training, cardio and walking.

I have been using the SWEAT app by Kayla Itsines for the last two years, on and off, and it has been incredibly enjoyable. I have tried every program on the app and I love them all. My current favourite exercise is routine is HIIT – I really like mixing cardio with weight training.

My personal style is quite feminine and ‘70s inspired… I have always admired fashion from that period.

I like to buy from ethical and conscious labels. My current favourite designer is Deadly Denim – they upcycle denim using First Nation art. Another designer I am in love with at the moment is Ngarru Miimi. Her designs are eye-catching and just stunning. I cannot leave the house without my dilly bag by Ngumpie Weaving and my flag earrings by Gillawarra Arts.

I believe ageing is quite beautiful.

I am a strong believer that wisdom does come with age, and I know that I am becoming wiser and learning more about myself as I get older. Thirty has been my most challenging but rewarding year yet, and I cannot wait to see where my future takes me.”

Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Photography by Marley Morgan, Barefoot Wandering Photography. Marley wears NgarruMiimi. Makeup by Carmel Kestles

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