We are really fortunate to have Ailie Banks, an amazing illustrator and artist from NSW design our new WWDA LEAD project’s logo and associated artwork. Ailie is a young woman with lived experience of mental illness and produces illustrations both nationally and internationally for brands like Bonds and Benefit and media organisations and magazines like Teen Vogue, Gurls Talk and She is Fierce.

If you have seen Ailie’s illustrations before you can see that she has a powerful voice and has much to say about her own journey as well as  women with disabilities. Today we have asked her a few questions about her art.

Hey Ailie, can please tell us about how you first got interested in art?

My mother is an artist, so I grew up with it just like anything else. It never occurred to me that it would be difficult to pursue career-wise until I hit high school. I have been drawing from a young age but really found it helpful during my teens and early twenties as I navigated mental illness. It just kind of organically became my career as I began sharing it with the world and people wanted to pay me for it!

One of the reasons why we got in contact with you was we really loved your images of strong women with disabilities – can you tell us a little more about where the strength in your art comes from?

Anyone who follows me knows I speak openly about my experience with trauma and how it has affected my views around femininity and womanhood. We are taught that to be ‘feminine’ is to be small, gentle, quiet, polite and often weak. During my trauma recovery I realised that all those things were also messages used to silence me during abuse. It came to a point where I started to see that in order to be a confident, healing, self-assured woman in the world it actually requires great strength and determination. I started looking around for examples of women and people I wanted to emulate and many of them just so happened to live with a disability. The more I looked for role models the more apparent it became that strength and vulnerability often operate in the same sphere and that concept has informed most of my work.

Apart from art, what other things are you passionate about?

I have a passion for speaking about mental health and trauma recovery. I also really enjoy taking part in any community events, at the moment I currently work with my local Women’s Health Centre to mentor a group of young activists. I hope to eventually create and publish another book as that was a really beautiful experience for me the first-time round.

Can you tell us more about the most important work that you have been involved in?

In all honesty it’s actually all the work I do outside of traditional ‘work’, I have been extremely blessed with my career, but I am most proud of my mental health work. You know… the very deep, often painful but ultimately incredible self-work we all do behind the scenes. That work has opened me up to so many opportunities and experiences so far, I’m very grateful.

Our new WWDA LEAD project is about encouraging women and girls with disabilities to lead, to have their voices heard and to have a seat at decision making tables. What do you think is the most important thing for the amplification of women’s voices into these spaces?

Well, in a practical sense, if there are tables and meetings out there where decisions are being made for us (the collective humanity) en masse, those tables need to accurately reflect us. How can someone with no connection or understanding of a certain position in the world, and all the obstacles a certain position can face be in charge of their wellbeing? It just really doesn’t make any sense, and more to the point, it doesn’t work. I’m tired of being told that and represented by people who aren’t me and I don’t want them representing my interests, that’s my job.

If you want to follow more of Ailie’s artwork, please check out the links below:

on Instagram via @ailiebanks on Facebook via @ailiebanksillustration on Patreon via @ailiebanks and on my website www.abanksillustration.com