Indigenous businesses thrive in Ipswich

Artwork: Debbie ‘Yuluwiree’ Scott (2017) Meeting Place

A program to support Ipswich’s Indigenous community to gain a stronger foothold in the world of business is reaping results.

Ipswich City Council, in partnership with local consultancy Ngiyani, recently held a series of workshops aimed at developing and strengthening the skills of Indigenous business owners.

Arts, Social Development and Community Building Program Chief Operating Officer Caroline McMahon said the Ipswich Indigenous Business Capacity Building Program was a great success.

“The workshops were about providing information and resources to support members of the Ipswich Indigenous community,” she said.

“Digital marketing, business development, grant writing, tax essentials and record keeping were among the topics covered.

“The workshops were aimed at not only helping those starting out but also those who had been in business for some time and were looking to grow their business to the next level.

“It was also an important networking opportunity, to bring Ipswich business owners together to learn in a collaborative environment.”

Representatives from 22 local businesses participated in the Ipswich Indigenous Business Capacity Building Program.


Ipswich First spoke with three local indigenous people about their businesses

Healer offers unique day spa experience

Maxine Knox is a Goomeroi woman who grew up in Talwood, south east Queensland.

“I moved to Ipswich two and a half years ago to be closer to my grandchildren. I have spent the last 10 years working for government but it is my passion to do healing, self-care and spiritual development,” Ms Knox said.

Her business is called Murumali Dreaming where she offers Aboriginal spa treatments. Ms Knox opened her business eight months ago blending her Aboriginal philosophy and healing knowledge with spa wellness therapies.

“The spa treatments I do are formulated on Australian native plants. I also offer facials, massage, desert salt scrub, mud wraps and bush flower essences, that are unique because they incorporate healing techniques,” she said.

“It gives people a chance to step into Aboriginal culture.

“Marumali means ‘to heal’ in Goomeroi traditional language.”

Ms Knox attended the Digital Marketing Workshop held as part of the Ipswich Indigenous Business Capacity Building Program.

“It was exactly what I needed. I helped me to understand other platforms. I never thought that maybe I needed a webpage. It’s given me new ideas and strategies on what I can do to build the business. I’m very appreciative of that support and assistance,” she said.

Ms Knox hopes one day having an Aboriginal treatment is just as common place as a Thai or Balinese.

“Aboriginal spa treatments based on plant wisdom healing are usually only offered in top-end day spas. I am the only one doing them in Ipswich,” she said.

“You can get a Balinese treatment or Thai massage and no one bats an eye about that.”

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From bush to plate

Bruce Morgan is a Butchulla descendant from Kgari (Fraser Island).  Combining his aboriginal heritage and his profession as a horticulturist, he created an educational business called Murri Tukka 18 months ago.

Mr Morgan is invited to childcare centres and schools to share his knowledge on bush tucker. He also helps design and create bush tucker gardens or trails, shows how to identify a seed, separate it from the pod and cook a dish.

“I made wattle seed damper recently and the children ground the seeds in a mortar and pestle and added it to the dough, they loved it,” Mr Morgan said.

“The local community have been really welcoming and I’m very grateful to the traditional owners here who permit me to walk on their land, collect bush tucker and educate their kids.”

Mr Morgan feels a cultural responsibility not to hold onto the rare information he has gathered over the years.

“I think it would be wrong to keep it for myself, I have to share it with all Australians,” Mr Morgan said.

“There are more than 6500 native food species in Australia. In Ipswich it’s all around, right under everyone’s noses.  You don’t have to walk far to find bush tucker. I want people to become aware of what is here,” Mr Morgan said.

“Aboriginal language is being resurrected and I’m also learning about bush medicine. I want to help keep the knowledge of bush tucker alive.”

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Aboriginal disability support service: Helping Ipswich Indigenous

Hayley Wesbro is a Wiradjuri descendant from central NSW. Ms Wesbro is an original member of the Black Business Networking Group here in Ipswich.

“I couldn’t speak more highly of that group. By having the opportunity to work with like-minded people from my culture and have their support, made me realise I’m not just one little black girl.  I got a sense that yes, I can do this,” she said.

“I started Wesbro Support Services about seven months ago. I was working in the sector at the time and to me there were so many gaps in the service delivery.

“My goal for the first three months was to have one customer. Now we are seven months in and I have 14 customers and 10 support workers.

“We try to do everything in the most cultural and traditional way that we can. Our customers like that we use traditional language. We attribute our success to the way we do it. We are 65 per cent Aboriginal customers but we are happy to help everybody.”

Ms Wesbro’s business is very reflective of her culture. Her services are named from her traditional Wiradjuri language.

GIRRA GIRRA BANG (Social and Community participation), Ganya (Supported accommodation and respite), Birrang (Skills training for personal and professional development) and Wambinya (Direct care services).

“It’s not just for our customers, I love that I am able to have a sense of culture and connection in my everyday work. This type of work, helping people, is very reflective of our culture. We work together to get what needs to be done, done,” Ms Wesbro said.

“I have enjoyed taking part in the council’s Indigenous business program, it’s a big tick in the right direction to help with reconciliation and bringing black and white businesses together.”

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