With International Women's Day around the corner and the opportunity to #choosetochallenge leading us through 2021, we are looking forward to presenting six inspiring women influencing the native ag+food sector.
Meet our panellists!
Meet Professor Juanita Sherwood
Our most recent addition to the panellist line up is proud Wiradjuri woman, Professor Juanita Sherwood, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Engagement at Charles Sturt University.
Juanita holds a PhD, is a registered nurse, researcher, teacher and lecturer and has worked almost 30 years in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and education.
Juanita has a mission to build culturally reflective capabilities within Indigenous communities. She has changed health and education outcomes for First Nation's children across Australia and heralded a long-standing commitment to Indigenous health research as a social justice praxis.
Meet Pat Torres
With connections to Djugun, Yawuru, Karajarri, Nyul Nyul, Bard, Jabirr Jabirr and Ngumbarl peoples, panellist Pat Torres is the Founder of Mayi Harvests, a native food business based in the West Kimberley. Pat produces a range of items sourced using an ancient technique of wild harvesting (aka foraging). Pat's thirst for knowledge has resulted in several degrees to help her bridge the gap between traditional knowledge and western business styles. By educating local families on western business concepts, Pat has increased Indigenous participation in the native ag and food sector.
"They (Indigenous women) can see their communities are struggling, and they look for ways to elevate the status of our community. Bushfood and bush medicine/ bush remedies have been a way for the elder women to get involved and teach the younger ones and creates a sense of pride, it links people back to their cultural roots, and it provides them with a relevant area of involvement and engagement. So if you are an expert in bushfood and bushtucker, that gives you incredible startup knowledge. Most people know about bushfood and bush tucker but what we don't know is how to value-add it."
Meet Suzanne Thompson
Traditional custodian of Inigai Country, panellist Suzanne Thompson lives in Barcaldine, central Queensland. Suzanne is the chair of Australia's Native Food and Botanicals (ANFAB) and is a founding member of the Yumbangku Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Tourism Development Aboriginal Corporation.
Suzanne's background has been in government agencies working in youth, community and policy development and as an Indigenous business advisor. With a fire in her belly, Suzanne is passionate about her connection to Country and ensuring that as the sector moves forward, it is with respect and understanding of cultural order, particularly regarding the role of women.
"For many millennia, the woman's role has always been the gatherer and the man as the hunter, but it was also a shared role. But women in practising were healers. Women have a crucial role in the emerging industry. We have to be leading this space if we are going to be culturally respective to the Indigenous knowledge- IP and benefit-sharing, then I think a clear understanding of the IP of our sense of where the knowledge sat, and that's with women."
Meet Dr Geraldine McGuire
What started as a childhood curiosity about native fruits not yet known by the western world birthed a life of study that continues to fuel Dr Geraldine McGuire's (PhD) initiatives today. As an agricultural scientist with a passion for regenerative agriculture, Geraldine created Rainforest Bounty, a business inspired by her earlier work with First Nations People in Cape York. While teaching the Indigenous women in remote communities how to propagate native species, Geraldine left with a new perspective and understanding surrounding the role of traditional knowledge in the native ag+food sector. Today Rainforest Bounty is a thriving business located in the Atherton Tablelands, where the native fruits are grown as the core ingredients for the products.
With climate change being a momentous challenge today and in the future, Geraldine believes that native agriculture may provide several solutions to repairing the land. Similarly, with the sector growing exponentially, she wants to ensure it develops with a collaborative mindset focusing on First Nations women's guidance and participation.
"Indigenous women hold the knowledge, and I would love to see them benefit economically. When a woman is in charge of her finances, she is in charge of her life. We have a very long way to go about women's empowerment, domestic violence and the education of girls. And based on my work in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Laos and Fiji, once a woman has a job, she changes her community."
Meet Julie Okely
Panellist Julie Okely is a proud Kamilaroi woman and entrepreneur, having won Supply Nation's Indigenous Businesswoman of the year 2017. Julie founded Dilkara, a 100% organic hair and skincare range utilising Australian native botanicals based in the ACT.
Julie is passionate about sourcing ingredients through ethical value chains. She has a focus on finding Indigenous-owned suppliers to make a positive impact to rural and remote communities. She is currently seeking out how to make her entire supply chain Indigenous-owned.
Through participating in mentoring, Julie believes we need to be creating modern educational pathways for Indigenous women to increase access and opportunities launching their own business.
"With an increase in Indigenous women in businesses, there gives a sense of identity and ownership. The development of independence and achievement is also created when Indigenous businesswomen learn to stand on their own knowledge and self-reliance. It not only improves the economic situation, but it also assists in the protection of their cultural identity and product ideas.
We look forward to the outcomes that follow this important conversation and encourage you to #choosetochallenge every day!