11 October 2023

Illawarra's Aboriginal businesses gather for first trade expo to promote goods and services

| Jen White
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Tina McGhie sitting outside.

Curijo co-founder Tina McGhie is looking forward to the first Illawarra Aboriginal Business Expo. Photo: Jen White.

More than 30 Illawarra and Shoalhaven Aboriginal businesses will come together today (12 October) to promote their products and services to the wider community.

The Illawarra Aboriginal Business Expo is the first trade show of its kind for the region and came about following the creation of the Illawarra Indigenous Business Network.

Supported by Wollongong City Council, it will be held at Wollongong Art Gallery, Burelli Street, from 10 am to noon.

The Indigenous Business Network came together not long before COVID-19 as a networking forum for businesses, offering advice, support and training. It struggled to continue during the lockdowns but re-emerged earlier this year.

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Tina McGhie, one of the founders of Illawarra-based Curijo consultancy services, said the network provided a sounding board for Aboriginal business operators about all aspects of running a business.

“It’s all about being an informal network for Aboriginal businesses to come together, to work together and share cultural awareness and the different ways we do things,” she said.

“When the group had its first meeting, we put a plan on a page and we had a couple of key things that we wanted to do.”

“The first was the network coming together on a regular basis to be able to be a sounding board and tap into each other,” she added.

“The other was to develop a website that we can put up to share with different organisations in the Illawarra to promote Aboriginal business. We’ll be launching that at the expo this week.

“And the third thing was about having an expo, linked to National Indigenous Business Month.

“It’s really about showcasing Aboriginal Illawarra businesses and hopefully it will become bigger and bigger in the future to highlight and showcase some of the great things that we’ve got here.”

Tina said a diverse group of businesses would be attending the expo, including arts and crafts, education, construction, catering, photography and videography.

She said it would also be a good opportunity to find some unusual Christmas gifts.

One of the businesses, Barrmarrany, has only been operating for 10 months and co-founder Rochelle Morris said the expo offered an opportunity to showcase its services but most importantly, to connect with other services.

“Coming from a legacy where my mother was part of the stolen generation she founded our business, Barrmarrany. It’s an Indigenous-owned company that focuses on offering genuine Aboriginal experiences rooted in lived experiences and stories in line with Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing,” Rochelle said.

“For us, our approach to delivering educational experiences through different generational lived experiences gives us a unique opportunity for services to see and hear how a family worked together to overcome trauma through recovery and most importantly healing.

“Keeping families together and teaching and supporting each other how to do this is a unique concept in the development of our business.”

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Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery encouraged community members and business owners to drop into the expo to learn more about the variety of Indigenous-owned and managed businesses in the region.

“Hiring local Aboriginal businesses is a great way we can keep money in the region and support our local economy. It also helps support Aboriginal people living in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven to find social and economic empowerment,” he said.

The expo is one of three council-run events held in October as part of NSW Small Business Month. A cyber security workshop will be held on Tuesday 17 October and a free digital marketing workshop on Friday 27 October. Bookings are essential for both.

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