NAIDOC Week 2021: How Healing Country starts with a yarn
With NAIDOC Week celebrations affected due to COVID-19, Bronwen Smith and Gavin Chatfield, Indigenous artists and owners of Gwiyaala Aboriginal Arts, explain that celebrating Country can be as simple as having a conversation.
As retailers at one of Australia’s most popular First Nations markets, Blak Markets, owners of Gwiyaala Aboriginal Arts, Bronwen and Gavin are just one of many small Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses who credit the market’s impact on closing the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians. Bronwen attributes markets such as these as a driving force in Healing Country.
First Hand Solutions has facilitated the growth of Blak Markets for more than 8 years, providing ”hands-on solutions to the problems faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."
As a key Suncorp Group community partner, First Hand Solutions enables the markets to provide economic development opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with a number of performers, musicians, artists and other First Nations creatives featuring at each event.
With the impact of COVID-19 continuing to affect industries across the board, Blak Markets is no exception. Snap lockdowns, increased social distancing measures and ongoing restrictions mean the markets have been forced to adapt, recently releasing an online shopping experience linking to each retailer’s individual site.
But, despite the challenges faced by the pandemic, Gwiyaala Aboriginal Arts say the multi-annual events provide more than just economic opportunities to small Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.
“Blak Markets not only promotes our culture through our work, but also enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians to unite,” says Bronwen.
These markets create the opportunity to just have a yarn with people who visit our stall, turning it into a really great conversation about culture, history and learnings. Healing Country, NAIDOC Week’s theme for 2021, starts with simply acknowledging our culture.Bronwen Smith, Co-owner Gwiyaala Aboriginal Arts
Bronwen first started Gwiyaala Aboriginal Arts in 2007, adopting Gavin’s artwork when the pair met in 2014. The pair both acknowledge that creating their art has been healing for their own traumas and selling their pieces has grown their confidence as professional artists.
Fiona Thompson, Group Executive, People, Culture & Advocacy at Suncorp, says the partnership with First Hand Solutions has never been more important, with communities across the country continuing to feel the economic and social effects of COVID-19.
Bronwen and Gavin, Co-owners of Gwiyaala Aboriginal Arts
Suncorp is proud to partner with First Hand Solutions and support Blak Markets throughout the year. Through this marketplace, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the opportunity to showcase and share their culture and heritage through the arts and crafts they produce and sell.Fiona Thompson, Group Executive, People, Culture & Advocacy
Bronwen and Gavin both reflect that the meaning of NAIDOC Week has changed for them over time. As children they recall NAIDOC Week was more focused on coming together as family to celebrate, whereas now as adults they feel the celebrations are more focused on their journey: who and where they are, and how they are evolving with a modern Australia.
“Blak Markets have genuinely helped us grow as people, and as artists,” says Bronwen.
“We’ve both come from small country towns and Blak Markets have helped us get the exposure we need to share our art and gain confidence. It’s really built our personalities and grown our self-esteem.”
Gwiyaala Aboriginal Arts is planning to launch their store online in the near future, where they can continue sharing their creations with Australia in absence of a physical market stall.
The next Blak Markets is scheduled for September 2021. Find out more about Blak Markets and upcoming event dates on their Facebook page.
Learn more about Suncorp’s commitment to advancing reconciliation in our Reconciliation Action Plan.