This Masterclass Online and recap was made possible thanks to our friends at Women NSW.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been trading – or doing business – for over 60,000 years. Indigenous businesses are a vital part of our economy and despite the misconceptions, go far beyond the niche of the arts.
In a recent Masterclass Online we were joined by Dixie Crawford, a proud Barkindji woman, Managing Director of Source Nation and an inaugural member of our Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, Kristal Kinsela-Christie, a descendant of both the Jawoyn and Wiradjuri nations and Managing Director of Indigenous Professional Services, and Laura Berry, a proud Aboriginal and Italian descendent born and raised on the land of the Ngunnawal people and Chief Executive Officer of Supply Nation. We discussed the benefits of investing in Indigenous-owned businesses, how best to spend your money with them, performative activism and how to be an ally.
If you missed the masterclass and have been asking yourself, ‘how can I help?’ or ‘what can I do?’ our friends at Women NSW have you covered.
The benefits of working with Indigenous-owned businesses
COVID-19 has demonstrated the huge range of benefits of working with Indigenous and minority-owned businesses. As Laura Berry said, these businesses are innovative, flexible, grateful for the opportunity to prove themselves and will often step up and go further to provide an exceptional experience for their customers. They offer your procurement systems different products, services and new ways of thinking. Which is just good business if you ask us!
Supply Nation is Australia’s largest directory of verified Indigenous businesses, and a good place to start if you’re looking to engage with one. Since taking the reins of the business, Laura has grown the supplier base by over 300%. “We have businesses in sectors that you wouldn’t even think of. We have drone surveyors and Augmented Reality providers. The businesses in our directory are punching above their weight, and able to compete with mainstream organisations for opportunities and contracts. Our business is not about charity. It’s about trying to even the playing field and get Indigenous businesses a seat at the table so buyers can see how good they actually are.”
As if that wasn’t enough convincing, supporting Indigenous-owned businesses paves the way for intergenerational legacies. Kristal shared her own story of breaking a family cycle of welfare. “There is true self determination, there is aspiration and there is inspiration. They (the next generation) won’t grow up feeling inferior, they’ll feel comfortable in their own skin. These next generations won’t have to work as hard as I did to prove I was enough, to prove I am a worthy entrepreneur and can be successful. Being successful won’t be a dirty word. Disadvantage won’t be in the same sentence as being an Aboriginal person.”
Indigenous-owned businesses make up 0.6% of the business population – they cannot do all the heavy lifting
It’s important to have the same expectations of all businesses you work with, whether they are Indigenous-owned or not. Kristal Kinsela-Christie explained: “We hear a lot that buying from an Indigenous business goes a long way to having social impacts on Indigenous communities, and that is true. But that shouldn’t be something you place a significant pressure on the Indigenous business to provide you. Remember you are buying a quality product or service; you want to buy it on commercial terms. The social value or social impact is a subsequent benefit that you get out of it. What I see quite often, is the pressure to solve all Indigenous community issues or create change is always placed fundamentally on Indigenous businesses or communities. We make up 0.6% of the total business population. To place all that pressure on us as a small sector is significant. If you want to place a social impact or value on Indigenous businesses, make sure you put that pressure on all the other businesses you buy from. Ask them about their Reconciliation Action Plan, and what they are doing to support Indigenous businesses.”
Performative activism does not mean your work is done
While spending with Indigenous businesses will always be encouraged, it cannot be mistaken for doing the work to becoming a true anti-racist ally. Dixie elaborated on this: “Don’t go out spending your money, covering up your shadows of trauma, privilege and fragility with Aboriginal art. Make sure you continue to do the work. Buying a $500 painting from an Aboriginal person certainly supports their business and their family, but it doesn’t mean you have done the work around trauma and the gap around racism and oppression of black people in this country.”
Beyond spending, how can we better allies?
Racism must be brought home to the kitchen table and discussed with friends and family with open dialogue. As Dixie said, “You’re an ally by levelling up. Turning the mirror to yourself and thinking, ‘how can I do better?’
If you are proud of what you’ve done and what the world looks like right now, you need to go deeper. You need to start being honest with yourself. Start with compassion and love and care for another person’s lived experience. If you have never experienced racism, you don’t know what its like to be targeted and oppressed by the colour of your skin. The time is not to be hitting snooze. Silence is compliance. When you choose not to say anything, you are giving a big thumbs up to the way black people are treated in this country, and that you want more of it. If you’re going to call yourself an ally and anti-racist, you need to do the work.”
Check out Supply Nation‘s directory of verified Indigenous businesses, spanning products, services and diverse industries.
Looking for office supplies? Muru Office Supplies offer over 20,000 items for the modern office (and create a pathway for future generations of Indigenous people).
Jarin St offer beautiful yoga mats, zipped cases and towels designed with 100% authentic and original Aboriginal art.
For all your snacking needs, check out the The Unexpected Guest for award-winning Australian Certified Organic products including mueslis, hampers and pancakes.
During the masterclass Dixie was wearing beautiful earrings by Litiyalla, a brand inspired and celebrating indigenous culture, country, and stories.
The NSW Government is committed to advancing gender equity for the women and girls living in NSW by delivering initiatives to improve women’s economic opportunity and advancement, health and wellbeing, participation and empowerment. Visit the Women NSW website to learn more about the grant programs and resources available to women.