Indigenous-owned businesses not only contribute to the Australian economy, they play a major part in sustaining and sharing culture from their communities with the world. Lucky for us, buying from Australia’s rich variety of Indigenous-owned small businesses has never been easier.
As the small business community has been facing a tough period of uncertainty and change, we also asked each business owner to reflect on how they meet challenges that come up in business.
Known as the ‘Queen of Bling’, Kristy Dickinson, a proud Wiradjuri woman, is the creative and business brain behind Haus of Dizzy. Based in Melbourne on Wurundjeri Country, Haus of Dizzy has grown to become an iconic jewellery and accessories brand capable of delivering a powerful message. The pieces from Haus of Dizzy are instantly recognisable; think bold 90s hip hop, rave and disco sparkles with anti-racist slogans and iconography.
Reflecting on her own strategy for dealing with business challenges, Kristy said that as a solo business owner, she faces daily challenges – “Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes it meaningful.”
“My inspiration comes from having the freedom to be able to create all my pieces – highlighting what’s important to me. Whether it be through a nod to my Indigenous heritage, sending love to the LGBTQ community or standing up for social justice.”
You can get your Haus of Dizzy fashion fix online and in boutiques and major museums across Australia.
As her business name suggests, Fiona Harrison is a chocolatier with a vision. Chocolate on Purpose is the vehicle for Fiona, a proud Wiradjuri woman, with her good mate Jo, to celebrate and share culture and language (plus delicious chocolate!).
The brand’s popular Bush Food Chocolate range is a fusion of fine Belgian chocolate and hard-to-find Australian native botanicals: wattleseed, macadamia, finger lime, wild rosella, etc. These ingredients, sourced from across Australia, have a profound meaning for Fiona. She says she feels the most grounded when standing on ngurambang (country), where the flowers, fruits and leaves are both food and medicine.
Fiona uses her physical, online and social media business presence to share Wiradjuri language and storytelling with customers across Australia. She says, “Indigenous and non-Indigenous people connect when they experience culture and language. I’ve seen it and felt it. That’s why I can’t put it down.”
Asked what inspires her, Fiona explained, “It’s a fire in my nguruwi (belly). My business is called Chocolate On Purpose because it has a purpose beyond chocolate. I’m inspired to share culture, to deepen respect for our people’s wisdom and traditional ways. This is what propels me to create this connection through my business, and what inspires me even when times are challenging.”
You can shop the Bush Food collection and other goodies on the Chocolate on Purpose website.
Kirrikin is a destination for luxury accessories, swimwear and resort wear. The unique prints feature the artwork of talented Indigenous artists from across Australia.
Amanda Healy is the founder and CEO of Kirrikin. The word ‘Kirrkin’ roughly translates as your ‘Sunday best’ (clothes) in Healy’s Wonnarua language – and the flowing, colourful garments certainly will be.
Before establishing the label as a social enterprise, Healy already had a successful career in mining and with her engineering business in the Pilbara. Kirrikin was born out of a need for authentic, beautiful and ethically-made Indigenous apparel. Healy shared, “I am compelled to keep doing what I do to continue to develop the brand and the story of our business. We exist to create sustainable incomes for our artists, many of whom come from remote communities.
Asked what sparks her inspiration, she said “I’m continuously inspired by the wondrous variety and scope of the artworks by our incredible artists.”
The brand now has fans across Australia, Europe and the US and featured Samantha Harris in recent editorial campaigns.
A portion of Kirrikin’s profits are directed to running a variety of community programs such as Yirrigan Yorgas which supported Aboriginal Women at Bandyup prison in the Swan Valley, Western Australia. You can buy something special from Kirrikin on their website with free shipping.
Every year in the months of June to October, North Stradbroke Island – Quandamooka country – welcomes pods of humpback whales escaping the cool southern waters for some fun. The majestic whales regularly feature in the work of artist Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, pictured left (photographed by Kara Roselund).
Delvene describes her work – encompassing printmaking, commissioned paintings, sculpture, clothing and more – as embodying “a rich connection to country, capturing the Quandamooka soul”. Steeped in heritage, Delvene’s work also feels contemporary; it uses natural textiles, pigments and monochrome design elements.
Life in the subtropics provides plenty of inspiration: “Creating is part of my everyday life. I’m in my studio every morning – straight after my coffee and run with my dogs.” Delvene says this creative drive is what helps her meet and overcome challenges in business. Her work has been exhibited in galleries across Australia, sold using Square hardware at markets and in her online store, and even featured in the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she was selected as designer for the medals.
Aside from her design and art practice, Delvene also runs cultural and art walks. Learn more and view Delvene’s work for sale online.
If food is a language that transcends barriers Sharon Winsor is a skilled interpreter. Sharing recipes and ingredients is a pathway for the business owner to also share culture. She remembers childhood days catching yabbies and collecting bush fruits on Ngemba country, New South Wales. Today, Sharon is an expert on cooking with native ingredients.
Combining her personal passion with culinary training and catering experience has allowed Sharon to build Indigiearth. It’s now a destination for high-quality native ingredients and specialty foods like saltbush meat rubs, and myrtle-infused spice mixes. Sharon established her business in 2012 after a period of great personal turmoil and loss, as a way to support herself and her two children. Now, her ingredients are sought after by chefs across the country and abroad.
Asked what provides the inspiration to continue creating in the face of different challenges, Sharon shared, “My business is a representation of my culture, the oldest surviving culture in the world. My ancestors have been here for more than 60,000 years. Australian native foods, botanicals and medicine are my connection to culture, connection to spirituality, connection to language, connection to dreaming, to stories and to my identity. My culture doesn’t let me down, just like the fire in my belly doesn’t let me down.”