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The Koorie Circle decolonising through statement earrings

Rachael Knowles -

Handmade with love, The Koorie Circle is a business that brings women together, making them feel good through fashion and culture.

Gunditjmara woman Laura Thompson is the brilliant mind behind the The Koorie Circle, which she brought to life almost five years ago.

A self-professed "workaholic", Thompson is also part of the Clothing the Gap team.

"I was always doing extra work on the couch. I was experiencing some HR issues and I thought, 'Laura, if you weren't doing unpaid work on your couch, what is something else you would do? What else do you really like?'" she said.

"I didn't over think it, I just thought that I really like earrings and I always have!"

The Koorie Circle founder and creator, Laura Thompson. Photo via The Koorie Circle, Facebook.

The business has grown immensely since its inception and now has an Instagram community of over 8,000.

"There are times when I've looked to throw it in but it is my customers that have said, 'You can't! They're my favourite earrings!' I have some real loyal followers that just wear my stuff so I'll keep making them for them," said Thompson.

With every piece handmade, Thompson's earrings all hold special sentiment.

"I often love the fact I can give these freely at any time, so it's not unusual for me to take the earrings out of my ears and give them to someone else."

"Because I have been gifting, that has been passed to the people who buy my stuff. They often say, 'I gave those earrings away I need another pair for myself!' The idea of passing them on I never realised was a thing, but it is deeply embedded in the business."

Two particular products sold by The Koorie Circle feature the Aboriginal flag; the Aboriginal flag studs and pin.

"The first pair of earrings I made with The Koorie Circle was the Aboriginal Flag studs. The flag is important to me and I always get frustrated on Australia Dayâ€"or Survival Dayâ€"seeing so many Australian flags," Thompson said.

"I thought the studs were small enough they can be worn on the day, they weren't going to stress anyone out."

The Koorie Circle's handpainted bamboo 'Boomerang Aboriginal Earrings'. Photo via The Koorie Circle website.

On June 5, Thompson posted a video to Instagram speaking of a Cease and Desist she received for the Aboriginal flag pins from Gifts Mate Souvenirs.

Gifts Mate Souvenirs is owned by Ben Wooster, part-owner of WAM Clothing who are the worldwide copyright licence holder for Aboriginal flag products.

"It took me a while to speak about that on The Koorie Circle platform because it was so closely tied to that story with Clothing the Gap. But I felt the time was right to share it on that platform, especially for people who are handmaking and creating things at home, it affects them too," she said.

"The main reason I want the flag to be free is because I want to see more Aboriginal flags in the world ... At the moment with the copyright we are seeing less Aboriginal flags in the world. That symbol united Aboriginal people across the country, it gave them strength."

"The Australian flag doesn't represent us, the Aboriginal flag didâ€"so without that where do we fit in the landscape?"

"I feel a bit lost at the moment because I don't feel like I have a flag anymore."

Despite the struggles faced, The Koorie Circle is making a difference for many.

"I'll get a family contact me and say that they want me to create all the earrings for the women attending a funeral. These earrings create that moment to grieve and connect ... that literally makes people feel stronger on a day. And to be part of that for people is incredible," said Thompson.

"The Coolamon earrings ... Women often like to wear them during pregnancy because they feel like they are going to provide their baby with that extra protection."

Thompson's work can be seen from the streets to the Senate.

"My cousin is Lidia Thorpe and I have created her some things including earrings for her induction into Senate ... When she gets signed into [the] Senate, they make her pledge her allegiance to the Queen and I know that that is going to be really uncomfortable for her. But, in order to get in, that is what she has to do.

"I said to her, 'What can your earrings say that your mouth can't?'

"How can we decolonise spaces when we still have to follow procedures? The thing about earrings are that they aren't as confronting as t-shirts so she can look pretty and cute and professional and make a statement with her earrings and get away with it."

"I want women in parliament to wear my earrings. Even people working in prisons, prison officers in flag earrings, it makes a huge difference.

"People in uniform, when they can't express themselves through their clothes and can't wear their values on the t-shirts, they still have their earrings. And so, what can your earring say?"

To learn more about The Koorie Circle and shop their earrings, visit: https://thekooriecircle.com.au.

By Rachael Knowles

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