Photo by Jacinta Keefe Photography
The Indigenous business sector is one of the fastest growing in Australia. Around 12,000-16,000 Australian businesses are Indigenous-owned, and Indigenous self- employment rates suggest this number will grow by around 2,200 by 2026. To celebrate Indigenous Business Month, we want you to meet and celebrate these four Business Chicks members, all First Nations women running clever businesses across a bunch of industries.
Meet … Jacinta Keefe, Jacinta Keefe Photography
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do … I’m a proud Wiradjuri woman, from the Galari Bila (Lachlan River) living and working in Naarm (Melbourne.) I’m a photographer who specialises in live music and events photography. I’ve been a photographer for around 10 years now, working professionally for around eight. It all started for me when was 15 and had a lot of friends in the underground music scene and I just started getting into photography and leaned HARD into music photography. A few years on at university, I worked at a bar running a very successful open mic night with a very good friend and really solidified my place in the Melbourne music scene. Of course, music isn’t the only thing I photograph, I’ll cover anything really – just capturing moments for others and watching their joy when they see the images is what really warms my heart. It’s cliche, but pictures really do say 1000 words, and being able to document the world around me is really special.
In your Insta bio, you write ‘Taking up space in photo pits full of men’ … tell us about this Well after a lot of talking with some of the women in the music scene and my social media guide at the time, we were talking about how more often than not, I’m the only woman in the photo pit that can often be crawling with big brawl dudes who just don’t respect space and they always seem to get really pissed off when I’m in the pit. Like I’m not a skinny gal by any means, but because of this – they often get disgruntled about me being in the pit. I am the way I am, I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Endometriosis, it has impacted my weight, but I don’t let that stop me from the work that I love so dearly. I guess it came from yarning about that and trying to empower other women to get out there and get in the photo pit! I know it can turn a lot of women off, being in a very confined space with these guys who push or shove their way past you – I understand we have a job to do, however, there is a way to do it without being rude, obnoxious or unsafe. There’s A LOT of gatekeeping in the industry and I think we need to find a way to undo it and move forward making it a safe place for everyone moving forward.
What advice would you give to other First Nations business owners? I think, just really do something that works for you, do work that fills up your cup, it makes things so much more worthwhile, and the reward is just priceless. I got into running my own business because of my health – it made it easier to manage for me. Also growing up around people who were working their guts out, I realised that isn’t what I wanted from life. We don’t need to be slaving away at the grindstone to get the most out of life. I just want others to know that you can be successful and have a job or business that can fill up your cup, give back to the community, but also support yourself to live a better and brighter life.
Meet … Sarah Hyland, Together Business
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do … I’m the founder of social and financial accountability firm, Together Business, an Indigenous Chartered Accounting practice. I am an Anaiwan woman from Uralla in North West NSW, and now call beautiful Larrakia country in Darwin my home. The traditional accounting methods and rigid organisational structures don’t work. They are designed to benefit the few, at the expense of many. In fact, they’re contributing to our lack of care for each other and the planet, and the compounding impacts continue to be disproportionately invoiced to First Nations communities. By applying a decolonizing and humanistic approach, we enable First Nations self-determination and ethically influence wealth creation through enterprise. We work with people and businesses that are determined to live and breathe their vision and values, not just talk about them. Together Business is not only our name, it’s our way and our why.
I’ve read that you’re one of only four Aboriginal people to run their own accounting firm in Australia … Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been engaging in trade and commerce for thousands of years. As one of only four Indigenous led accounting firms in Australia, our principled approach of people, purpose, planet and profit is inspired by Indigenous wisdom and Knowledge systems. In a business context, I see it as a part of my role to reinforce that First Nations people are naturally and intuitively experts in sustainability, and ALL businesses can learn a lot from leaning into this strength in our shared history.
What advice would you give to other First Nations business owners? Trust yourself, your intuition and your own unique journey. We truly are able to create our own destiny through business, and for anyone feeling nervous or unsure, every small step forward gets you closer to where you want to be.
Meet … Emma Stewart, Jirribitti Dreaming
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do … A dreaming track, in this cultural context, is my purpose. My dreaming track is to create First Nations healing workshops and resources to work and walk with our people to heal and develop stronger mind, body and spirit. My intention is to walk and work with all people to create a better understanding and connection with First Nations ways of knowing, doing, being and healing. We have developed Aboriginal healing workshops, resources and activities that incorporate scientific evidence to ensure we are respecting and combining two knowledge systems – western and Aboriginal. Our inclusive approach allows all participants to feel connected to our ways of teaching and healing.
What does Jirribitti Dreaming mean? Our business name shares a story of healing, respect and connection. Jirribitti in Darug language means snake. This symbolises our ability to shed our skin and transform our trauma by learning, sharing and practicing cultural ways of healing. Dreaming represents our connection to culture, our Ancestors, creation stories and spirits, and our ongoing connection to Country. Our logo represents many people from all walks of life coming together to participate in a yarning circle. To share, listen and heal together.
What’s your advice for First Nations business owners? Work with passion, purpose and cultural integrity. Our spirit knows the way. Take the time to listen and have gratitude that our Ancestors are always guiding us
Meet … Peta Hudson, Wunyun
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do … I’m a multiclan woman who is proud of my traditional roots. I’m on a mission to revive ancient traditional medicinal and healing practices passed down to me. I am a descendant of Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung & Yorta Yorta, and have Indian heritage on my great grandfather’s side. I have spent many years learning about my ancient cultures and have been able to use it to impact the lives of many positively.
The old ways of both Aboriginal and Indian healing lend themselves to each other quite well and through this, I create medicinal healing products. I hold a strong connection to country and through my practice, aim to restore my traditional homeland to its former glory through recycling and planting Indigenous plants.
It is on these lands that I become a teacher, facilitating and delivering contemporary takes in ancient ceremonies and healing sessions. It is an important lifelong dream to revive ancient traditional medicinal practices passed down to me by her ancestors. Our times have changed in the last few years and I recognise that it is more important now than ever to be giving back to and supporting the community.
What advice would you give to other First Nations business owners? Believe in yourself, your brand, be unique and continue your learning, seek advice from like-minded people, and just have a go.