An annual week-long celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; NAIDOC Week is an opportunity to learn about our First Nations cultures and histories, and an opportunity for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike to unite and create a brighter, more inclusive future.
The theme of this year’s celebrations, ‘For Our Elders’, pays respects to the sacrifices and struggles of First Nations Elders in their fight for equality. And it is a theme that is lived and breathed by a raft of contemporary Indigenous-owned businesses, businesses who are continuing their ancestors commitment to protecting Australia’s natural environment and to preserve the unique culture of Australia’s traditional custodians.
As thriving entrepreneurs, these amazon.com.au sellers are helping to drive change, to encourage others to realise their own potential, and to help create a more equitable and inclusive world. Read on to hear their stories and to get inspired.
Growing up as a young First Nations man in Brisbane, Jesse Green, was determined to break the cycle of poverty in his community.
“There was no generational wealth and this has been my biggest motivation,” he says. “I knew that I wanted to start my own business and to help drive change for my people.
After gaining experience across various industries, Jesse parlayed his skills into founding Yilay — a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned and operated apparel, promotions and signage company.
Using artwork as an educational and engagement tool to help educate corporates and mainstream Australia on Indigenous values, beliefs, cultural practices and protocols, Yilay helps showcase First Nations culture to the nation. And the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week is especially pertinent to the brand.
“As an Indigenous-owned business, we utilise the knowledge passed down from our elders to help communicate and engage with our clients and wider community” he explains.
“NAIDOC Week is my favourite time of the year. My family and I — together with our mob — celebrate the richness of traditions still alive and strong today.”
Just as their struggles and sacrifices have helped create a better today for Jesse and his Indigenous peers, the entrepreneur hopes to do the same by inspiring other members of the Indigenous community.
“We would like to continue to employ and offer up-skilling opportunities to the First Nations community,” he says. “I’ve always dreamt of running my own business to support my family and my community and to leave a legacy that will continue for generations to come.”
BEACHTREE DISTILLING CO.
When Caloundra-based, Kirra Daley, was dealing with unexpected health issues, the proud Indigenous woman looked to her ancestors, and to the land around her, for a solution.
Growing up on Bundjalung country in a farming family, she began to explore the wealth of native botanicals to make curative teas — and the seeds for an idea were sown in the process.
Fast-forward to 2020 and Kirra teamed-up with Steven Grace — a First Nations man with more than 16 years of experience in the art of distilling —to form Beachtree Distilling Co. a distillery specialising in handcrafted spirits infused with Australian native and wild-harvested ingredients.
“Our goal was to combine our two worlds and to create something that preserved our Indigenous heritage, while also being ethical and sustainable,” she explains.
“We believe in practising sustainable methods and supporting Australian producers and farmers, which is why we follow the Aboriginal proverb: ‘give back more than you take.’”
With a commitment to promoting and supporting Indigenous-owned and operated businesses, both Kirra and the rest of the Beachtree Distilling Co. team believe that they have a role in preserving and promoting Indigenous culture and creating economic opportunities for the community.
“NAIDOC Week is a time for us to reflect on and celebrate the rich culture, history and achievements of Indigenous Australians,” she says. “It’s also a reminder of our ongoing plans to work with more Indigenous-owned businesses and to bring their products to a wider audience.
“We look forward to continuing to educate our customers about Indigenous culture and history.”
For First Nations Australians, land goes way beyond simply being a resource that can be exploited, rather land is something that can sustain, but must also be sustained in return. And so it is for South Australia-based farmer, Dom Smith, whose connection to Country has been a lifelong driving force.
Though cutting his teeth farming commercial crops, the passionate grower knew that something was missing, which led him to complete a certification in conservation and land management, before finishing a course in aquaponics — a system of aquaculture.
“Crops using this method are much less taxing on the environment, and use less water, land and labour,” he explains.
This passion translated into Pundi Produce — an aquaponic seven-hectare farm in the Riverland region of South Australia — that grows native fruit, vegetables and herbs. Produce that is both sustainable, as well as providing a connection to Dom’s Indigenous roots.
Dom has since partnered with Amazon Australia to expand the reach of his customer base — both locally, and internationally.
“Amazon Australia has really helped grow my business,” he says. “And this has also helped grow the awareness of native Australian foods overseas.”
But it’s not just about world-class produce. For this big-hearted farmer, going native has become a vehicle for another passion project: to help provide opportunities for other young Indigenous people in his community.
“I want to use my farm as a learning environment,” he enthuses. “Whereby young people from underprivileged or underserved communities can acquire farm skills, and one day, be able to apply them to their own properties.
“That’s what really matters to me — providing opportunities to the next generation of Indigenous kids. They’re the future, and they give me hope.”
NAIDOC Week 2023 is extra special for the founder of BSKT Wholefoods, Ryan James, as the annual celebration marks the first anniversary of his business.
Launched last year during the annual celebration with a mission to bring bush tucker knowledge into modern-day kitchen pantries, BSKT Wholefoods champions Australia’s wealth of native plants, nuts, seeds and proteins.
“The use of native Australian ingredients not only provides unique tastes and health benefits to its consumers, but also supports indigenous people through employment and food sourcing opportunities,” says the former Gold Coast Titans player and proud First Nations man.
In 12 short months, the brand has gone on to shine a light on Australia’s diverse native, Indigenous ingredients, as well as winning one of Amazon’s coveted Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grants, and recently joining the Amazon Launchpad program.
Launched in 2019 to help startups and entrepreneurs grow their businesses online, Amazon Launchpad offers marketing support, logistics support from Fulfilment by Amazon, and access to Amazon’s customer base.
Just as Ryan has been given a helping hand to achieve his goals, the ambitious businessman is determined to do the same for others through the creation of a new social impact division of the business, BSKT Native.
“We want to do more than just be successful,” he says. “We want to make a positive impact, both for the environment through sustainable practices by using native ingredients, and by supporting Indigenous communities.”