Located among the hustle and bustle of Perth is Aboriginal family-owned and operated business, Bindi Bindi Dreaming.
Named after the butterfly in Noongar language, the business is the brainchild of proud Noongar woman and tour guide, Marissa Verma.
After noticing a growing hunger in both the domestic and international tourism markets to learn about authentic Noongar culture, Ms Verma decided to fill this gap and established Bindi Bindi Dreaming in 2000.
The business offers a range of cultural education workshops, including guided tours on Country, cultural learning journeys for corporations and bush tucker programs in schools.
“There was a demand of people just wanting to know and understand about Aboriginal people, the environment, where they can find bush food, and where they can find bush medicine,” Ms Verma told NIT.
“And that’s where the demand was coming from.
“People visiting here and noticing there was a gap of nobody doing any tours or delivering any Aboriginal culture.”
Bindi Bindi Dreaming invites locals and visitors to gain a deeper understanding about all aspects of Noongar culture — from bush tucker and medicines to effective cultural protocols and the impact of colonisation on Noongar people.
Ms Verma said her on-Country tours were based on the six Noongar seasons.
“The first and foremost we do is teach the Noongar seasons, which is the foundation of the tour,” she said.
“Once you kind of have that in place, then you can go out there … and look at the foods that are attached to those seasons, or the medicine attached to those seasons.
“Then we talk about the movement that Aboriginal people did as part of those seasons.”
Passionate about empowering youth and educating them about Noongar culture, Ms Verma and her team also run youth mentoring programs and a bush tucker program at local schools.
Over a five-week period, Ms Verma teaches a variety of topics in these youth mentoring programs.
“I’ve got two youth mentoring programs. One is more specifically for uplifting women,” she said.
“They learn different topics around identity, family, kinship, totems, we do a cooking workshop, we do an art workshop, and there is one that we show the Stolen Generations just to get kids in that space.
“Because I know for me when I was growing up in in high school, I had no idea.”
“And I wish I’d known earlier.”
During the last two decades, as demand for her services has increased, Ms Verma’s mission in her business has evolved.
After originally starting her business with the plan to share information about culture, now, she aims to empower youth.
“When I first started my business, it was just kind of ad hoc. People were curious, and not really understanding why they needed to know about culture,” Ms Verma said.
“But now … in the 20-odd years that I have been doing this business, people are actually genuinely wanting to know and understand our culture, which is beautiful.”
Building a brand that is flexible and adaptable has been important to Bindi Bindi Dreaming’s success.
“I think it’s really good if your mission changes, because you kind of have to go with the times,” Ms Verma said.
“I guess my mission at the beginning was actually just to give a little bit of information in the simplest form to share Aboriginal people in history.
“But my mission now … I look at how many young people are really disconnected from knowing who they are.
“My mission is actually to redirect my information back to the young ones, so they can become future leaders.”
Winning NAIDOC Business of the Year in 2017 and the United Nations Gender Equality Award in 2019 for her mentor work with young women, Ms Verma is making her mark in strengthening cultural awareness and empowering future leaders.
While she feels blessed and humbled to have taken home such awards, Ms Verma said the most rewarding part of being at the helm of Bindi Bindi was seeing people “with a smile on their face, their bellies full and passing on knowledge — then seeing their friends come on to the next journey”.
“For me, that’s when I know I’ve done my job,” she said.
By Grace Crivellaro