This Christmas I have set myself the challenge of purchasing 90% of my gifts from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses.
There are hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses around Australia, operating in all areas from hospitality to arts, trades, education, fashion and tourism. Buying from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses means money is going directly into our communities. It supports efforts towards self-determination, and the establishment of intergenerational wealth; opportunities we have been historically and systematically denied.
With every purchase you make with an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander business, you are making an investment in our communityâ€™s future.
It is important to note there are also businesses which are non-Indigenous owned that leverage our cultures; for example, non-Indigenous owned businesses selling clothing with Aboriginal designs on them. These businesses may â€“ or may not â€“ engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples such as artists, models, photographers and other workers as part of their operations.
There are varied opinions within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about whether non-Indigenous businesses have the right to profit from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures. I would encourage you to learn about the businesses you are supporting, so that you can make informed consumer choices.
When looking to buy from a business that draws on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander culture, read their website for information about their ownership, community engagement and commission payments. If you canâ€™t find answers to your questions, Iâ€™d encourage you to politely and respectfully contact them for further information. Keep in mind that a business may be Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander-owned but not be advertised as such.
It is also important to know that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses sell products that are intended only for our community to purchase. For example, T-shirts with slogans such as â€œStraight out the Dreamtimeâ€, â€œShades of Deadlyâ€ and â€œBlak Girl Magicâ€ are not made for non-Indigenous people. While the individualâ€™s intentions may be well-meaning, it is important to recognise these boundaries. To make things clear, brands like Clothing the Gap have created â€œally friendlyâ€ and â€œmob onlyâ€ stickers, which they attach to their merchandiseâ€™s product descriptions to help customers.
Nonetheless, there are heaps of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses with products intended to be purchased, enjoyed and celebrated by all peoples. Many businesses take great pride in seeing their items being worn or used by both our community and non-Indigenous people. To get you started, Iâ€™ve highlighted a few ideas in Guardian Australiaâ€™s 2020 gift guide â€“ but I encourage you to research further as well.
If you are interested in learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, peoples, experiences and topics, the following resources have credible and reliable information:
Clothing the Gap: a Victorian Aboriginal-owned and led social enterprise with a fashion label that celebrates Aboriginal people and culture. In addition to making clothes, they also share lots of relevant and accessible content on their Instagram.
My own website, Blak Business, where I bring together information, knowledge and resources to facilitate broader learning and discussion about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander topics.
To learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture more generally, Iâ€™d also recommend:
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies: a national institution focused on the diverse history, cultures and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Aiatsis website is full of archival material and resources, including the map of Indigenous Australia.
National Indigenous Television (NITV): a free-to-air television channel that informs, educates and entertains both Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences about the issues that matter the most to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with programs produced largely by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
ABC Indigenous: houses all the latest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander news stories and features from around the ABC.
IndigenousX: provides access to a breadth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and experiences by hosting a new online profile and Q&A each week.