In celebration of Indigenous Business Month, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has put on a wealth of virtual events to celebrate Aboriginal changemakers in the business space.
Friday’s event, Courageous Women Doing Business Differently was facilitated by Program Manager in Indigenous Business Education at UNSW Business School, Rebecca Harcourt.
The event saw a panel of three Aboriginal women: Ashlee Donohue, Carol Vale and Shantelle Thompson.
Each woman is a changemaker in their field and bring a wealth of knowledge and passion to the table.
Proud Dunghutti/Gumbaingirr woman Carol Vale is the Managing Director of Murawin, a specialist intercultural consulting organisation.
Vale also established traditional food business Game Enough? and is the founder of Tiddas in Business.
With strong roots in community and over three decades’ experience in government and policy, Vale “accidentally fell” into the business space.
“I’d moved from Sydney to Brisbane, and just wasn’t finding the right job. I started doing projects for ex-colleagues and then realised it was a business opportunity,” she said.
“It was about looking at that experience from government and developing a product out of that which I could sell as part of a business.
My understanding of evaluation, my understanding of policy writing and implementation, I was able to develop a professional advisory management service that I can sell as part of my offerings.”
Vale’s platform Tiddas in Business is designed to empower other women in business. Its creation was spurred from a trip to southeast Asia.
“I saw lots of people selling small things to make a living and selling products about their culture. I don’t like the concept of commercialising our culture but what I saw was they were developing products where their culture was at the heart of it, to make a living and break cycles of poverty,” she said.
“I thought that is exactly what we need to do. And that’s when Tiddas in Business started. I would travel the country with my consultancy, so I’d do little workshops. I talk about my experience going from a government officer into setting up my own business.”
Barkindji/European woman and three-time Jiu-Jitsu world champion, Shantelle Thompson is better known as the Barkindji Warrior.
Walking a difficult journey, Thompson refused to be defined by her circumstances. After living away from Country, COVID-19 brought her back home and pushed her into the business world.
“I was told I had to choose between my job and my dreams, when I chose my dreams someone rang me and offered me a paid speaking gig to work with young people. And that’s how I got started in business,” she said.
Thompson is currently running an eight-week after-school program for Aboriginal girls around empowerment and development. It is called the Warrior Within program.
“This isn’t about outcomes, this is about impact and impact that I might never see. Some of these kids may come into the program and leave with the same attitude, but years down the track something that was said to them … helps them make the decision to help themselves,” she said.
“I want them to find their own potential and for them to become their own warriors.”
“You have to get that spark burning and you have to be able to fuel the fire—that’s where empowerment comes in … what tools do they need to succeed?”
Thompson is hoping to locate sustainable funding for the Warrior Within program and create another program for multicultural girls.
Born and raised in Kempsey NSW, Ashlee Donohue is a proud Dunghutti woman. Donohue is an author, educator, speaker, a strong advocate for Aboriginal women and the founder of consultancy organisation, Miss Ashlee Enterprise.
She is also coordinator of the Mudgin-Gal Aboriginal Corporation Women’s Centre and is the Chair of Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre.
Adding to her multitude of roles, Donohue sits on the ‘Our Watch’ Aboriginal Women’s Advisory Board and the City of Sydney’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory panel.
She has led multiple anti-violence and anti-racism campaigns and has presented at UN Status of Women Forums in New York City.
To find out more about the event and the women, visit: https://www.edi.unsw.edu.au/courageous-women-doing-business-differently.
By Rachael Knowles