29 Indigenous women founders, authors, artists and brands you should know about
NAIDOC Week honours the rich history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year the theme ‘For Our Elders’ acknowledges the important role and prominent place Indigenous Elders play in local communities and families.
“They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones.” – The National NAIDOC Committee
The committee goes on to say, “It is their influence and through their learnings that we must ensure that when it comes to future decision making for our people, there is nothing about us – without us.
We pay our respects to the Elders we’ve lost and to those who continue fighting for us across all our Nations and we pay homage to them.”
Earlier this year at our International Women’s Day event, panellist and proud Waanyi and Kalkadoon woman Alana Kennedy asked us to listen, to carry and to share her story as a way to lift up First Nations women. This NAIDOC, we’ve curated a list of 29 amazing First Nations women for you to watch, listen to, buy from and follow.
For the skim readers:
- Six Indigenous women leaders you should know about
- Five First Nations female authors to add to your reading list
- Five must-listen First Nations female voices
- Four must-watch Indigenous female-led movies
- Nine Indigenous women-owned brands to buy from
Six Indigenous women leaders you should know about
Bobbi Lockyer, a proud Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru artist, born and based on Kariyarra Country in Port Hedland, is the winner of the prestigious National NAIDOC Week Poster Competition for 2023 with her entry, For Our Elders.
She is an amazing artist and advocate for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who empowers women through both her photography and design, working with a variety of art mediums including painting, graphic design and photography.
“Where there is knowledge there are our Elders. Our Elders paved the pathways for us, taught us our knowledge, our history, they passed down their art, stories and wisdom. Our Elders are the foundation of our communities and role models for our children. With this poster I wanted to showcase how important our Elders are in passing down traditions and culture to our children and future.” said Bobbi.
Bobbi is an official creator for Nikon Australia and her work has been published all over the world including in Vogue Magazine and New York Fashion Week.
Lillardia Briggs-Houston is a Wiradjuri, Gangulu, Yorta Yorta multidisciplinary artist and fashion designer based in Narrungdera/Narrandera, Wiradjuri Country. Drawing inspiration from the country and adapting traditional Southeast Aboriginal cultural practices like carving, bush dying and weaving into her work, Lillardia uses fashion as a catalyst for change and a way to voice her self-determination and empowerment. If you keep up to date with Lillardia, you are on track to embark on an exciting journey of cultural learning and sheer fashion extravaganza!
J is one of the founders of Dreamtime Aroha, home of the original handmade Aboriginal Jarjum dollies. She is a proud Aboriginal woman and a force of nature descending from the Barungguan & Butchulla People. An opinion leader and advocate for Indigenous people and their rights, J is also an active fundraiser for those in need.
Narelda Jacobs OAM
Narelda Jacobs OAM is a Whadjuk Noonjar woman who is a television presenter and journalist with Network 10 and NITV. She is passionate about promoting equality, diversity and inclusion and driving change for Indigenous people and the LGBTQI+ community.
A proud Yorta Yorta woman, Allira Potter is a must-follow if you love psychic readings and energy healing. With her mission to decolonise the wellness space, Potter is also a meditation teacher, life coach and qualified reiki practitioner. Alira’s all about self-love, mindfulness and well-being.
Nakkiah is a prominent young leader in the Aboriginal community. She’s also an actor and writer for such programs as the hit show Black Comedy. Nakkiah also co-hosts the podcast Pretty For An Aboriginal with actress, Miranda Tapsell. Nakkiah’s Instagram is a mix of all the things she’s loved for including her brilliant (even poetic) writing, her cultural pride and her interesting and adventurous lifestyle. She’s also an advocate for body positivity and is interested in “breaking down beauty standards and binaries around acceptable bodies”.
Five First Nation’s female authors to add to your reading list
Am I Black Enough For You? By Anita Heiss
Penned by Anita Heiss, Am I Black Enough For You? is a rare literary gem that tells the story of an urban-based high achieving Wiradyuri woman working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia. Written in her distinctive, wry style, Anita contemplates her own experiences as a woman with a Wiradyuri mother and Austrian father. In 2012, Am I Black Enough For You? was selected in Reading’s Top 50 books by Australian women. Give this heartfelt memoir a good read, you will be able to resonate with Anita and gain a better understanding of the question of what it means to be Aboriginal.
Ascension is Australia’s first Indigenous and Ethnic Women’s Lifestyles Magazine. It represents Indigenous and ethnic women across fashion, health, beauty, career, love, relationships and culture. Owned and operated by Indigenous Australians, Ascension takes readers to see the world in colour rather than in black and white. In addition to exciting articles about lifestyles, arts, and fashion, Ascension also has a featured section about female entrepreneurship.
My Tidda, My Sister By Marlee Silver
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and society has existed on this continent for millennia. It’s a culture that manifests itself as the ultimate example of resilience, strength and beauty. It’s also a culture that has consistently been led by its women.
My Tidda, My Sister shares the experiences of many Indigenous women and girls, brought together by author and host of the Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast, Marlee Silva. The voices of First Nations’ women that Marlee weaves through the book provide a rebuttal to the idea that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. For non-Indigenous women, it demonstrates the diversity of what success can look like and offers an insight into the lives of their Indigenous sisters and peers.
Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia By Anita Heiss
As confronting as this one may be, Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia is an absolute must-read. Compiling the perspectives from a number of people like Tony Birch, Adam Goodes, Deborah Cheetham, Terri Janke and a whole heap more, this groundbreaking anthology reveals, to some degree, the impacts of invasion and colonisation—on language, on country, on ways of life, and on how people are treated daily in the community, the education system, the workplace and friendship groups.
After Story by Larissa Behrendt (Fiction)
When Indigenous lawyer Jasmine decides to take her mother Della on a tour of England’s most revered literary sites, Jasmine hopes it will bring them closer together and help them reconcile the past.
Twenty-five years earlier the disappearance of Jasmine’s older sister devastated their tight-knit community. This tragedy returns to haunt Jasmine and Della when another child mysteriously goes missing on Hampstead Heath. As Jasmine immerses herself in the world of her literary idols—including Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Virginia Woolf—Della is inspired to rediscover the wisdom of her own culture and storytelling. But sometimes the stories that are not told can become too great to bear. Ambitious and engrossing, After Story celebrates the extraordinary power of words and the quiet spaces between. We can be ready to listen, but are we ready to hear?
Five must-listen Indigenous female voices
Black Magic Woman Podcast With Mundanara Bayles
The Black Magic Woman podcast is brought to listeners by Mundanara Bayles. As a proud Australian First Nations woman, Mundanara enjoys being a storyteller, educator, businesswoman and change-maker. Guided by Aboriginal Terms of Reference and focusing more on who people are rather than on what they do, the Black Magic Woman Podcast is an uplifting conversational style program featuring mainly First Nations people from Australia and around the world sharing their stories about their journey to highlight the diversity amongst First Nations peoples and their resilience. Through the podcast, Mundanara inspires listeners and creates a better understanding of First Nations Peoples’ culture and history.
Speaking Out Podcast
‘Speaking Out‘ is the ABC Radio National show hosted by Gamilaroi and Eualeyai woman, Professor Larissa Behrendt. She is the Chair of Indigenous Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney, as well as a multi-award-winning author and filmmaker.
Speaking Out covers up-to-date stories in politics, art, and culture through Indigenous perspectives and often features distinguished Indigenous academics, critics, and creatives. The show runs on ABC Radio National on Fridays at 12pm but you can also download it to listen to at your own pleasure.
Yarning Up With Caroline Kell
A proud Mbarbrum woman, you need to check out Caroline Kell’s brilliant podcast Yarning Up. Featuring insightful conversations with First Nations leaders, thinkers, creators, activists and entrepreneurs. Guests include Kamilaroi man and lifestyle coach Jeffrey Morgan and Yorta Yorta woman and founder of Yarli Creative (one of our faves) Madison Connors. Together, Kell and her guests will help you learn and unlearn Australia’s history.
Jessica Mauboy dubbed the ‘Aussie Queen of pop’ is an incredible role model for young people all around Australia, particularly young Indigenous women. She has a strong voice nationally and internationally and has always been an advocate for women’s rights. She works closely with remote Indigenous communities mentoring, educating and inspiring young kids.
“In a world sorely in need of genuine champions, Jessica Mauboy has answered the call by being a strong voice and a moral centre to remind us of what being an Australian is all about.” Anti Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramvich, 2019
Thelma Plum is a Gamilaraay woman, musician and creator. She grew up in Brisbane and spent many of her childhood years on her Grandparents’ farm in Delungra, a small country town in rural New South Wales. She is an award-winning (NIMA, Unearthed) storyteller and a creator. Bravery, strength and resilience are not often the first things you attach to her brand of sophisticated folk music – but they should be. Thelma takes you on her journey down the garden path, and along the way shows you her world; both magical and sweet, but also equally scathing.
Four must-watch Indigenous female-led movies
Screened in 2012, The Sapphires tells the exciting story of an Aboriginal Girl Group in the 1960s. The four talented Yorta Yorta women – Gail, Cynthia, Julie and Kay, were discovered by a talent scout at a local competition. Never set foot outside Australia before, they found themselves in Vietnam as they landed a gig to entertain the US troops. More than just a simple comedy, The Sapphires speaks against racial prejudice with the bravery and talent of Australian First Nations people.
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
A devastating true story of three Aboriginal girls who are stolen from their land and their families in 1931 to be trained as domestic staff in a mission, Rabbit-Proof Fence is an important depiction of the Stolen Generation. Molly, Gracie and Daisy escape from the mission to use their knowledge of Country to return home — all the while being tracked by a white Protector and an Indigenous tracker, played by iconic actor David Gulpilil.
Produced by ABC, Total Control tells the story of Alex Irving, an indigenous woman who was thrust into the political limelight. This intriguing TV series offers a scathing examination of Australian politics as it depicts how an indigenous woman actively proves her worth while struggling to avoid being used as a political pawn because of her identity.
Redfern Now (2012)
Exploring the ramifications of colonialism and the Stolen Generations, Redfern Now was the first TV series to be commissioned, written, acted and produced by Indigenous Australians. Starring the likes of Leah Purcell, Deborah Mailman, and Shari Sebbens, the show is an honest and authentic portrayal of being Indigenous in contemporary Australia.
Nine Indigenous women-owned brands to buy from
Lowanna Natural Skincare
Created by Sinead, a proud descendent of the Narungga people of the Yorke Peninsula region, Lowanna Skincare is an Australian made beauty, cosmetics and personal care brand that takes pride in formulating products with key native Australian plant-based ingredients – the ingredients that Indigenous Australians have been using for years.
At Ochre Sun, they manufacture the very best sunscreen infused with sustainably and ethically sourced Indigenous botanicals. Their mission is to increase awareness of Australian Indigenous culture through sharing the wellbeing benefits of native Australian botanicals. Founder Alana Kennedy, values the knowledge ingrained in her culture and its unique potential to provide effective solutions to the harsh Australian climate.
Haus Of Dizzy
At the helm of Haus of Dizzy, proud Wiradjuri woman Kristy Dickinson creates bold, playful, statement-making jewellery that celebrates and honours Indigenous culture—imbuing a sense of empowerment and joy within everybody who wears it.
Often featuring powerful political and social messages, each Haus of Dizzy piece is designed, laser-cut, hand-painted and assembled in the company’s studio, located in Fitzroy, Melbourne/Naarm. Through behind-the-scenes fundraising, collaborative work and their statement-making accessories, Haus of Dizzy continues to celebrate, support and contribute to Indigenous cultures.
Clothing The Gaps
Clothing The Gaps is an Aboriginal social enterprise uniting people through fashion and cause. They create merch with a message that aims to unite people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) through fashion, encouraging people to wear their values. They exist to Educate, Elevate, Advocate and Motivate.
BlackCard offers three unique cultural tours in the heart of Brisbane City. Each tour provides a rare opportunity to learn more about Brisbane’s Aboriginal history through the genius knowledge of Aboriginal tour guides.
Nationally, BlackCard offers Cultural Capability Training through face-to-face workshops and online training to further solidify cultural capability, strengthening ethical behaviour between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Proudly Aboriginal-owned and led, Magpie Goose is where fashion and social impact come together. They create unique and wearable garments designed to make a statement while generating economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through creative industries and are ethically made in Australia.
Country girl, turned entrepreneur, Amplified Beauty founder Shanha Smith is on a mission to create more than a cosmetic line. The brand focuses on diversity, inclusivity and female empowerment.
Amplified Beauty offers Indigenous-owned, luxury cosmetics that are Australian-made, cruelty-free and vegan.
Emma Hollingsworth is the Brisbane-based artist behind Mulganai. She is a Kaanju woman who produces fine Indigenous artworks. She grew up travelling Australia with her family, visiting many Aboriginal communities which reflects the diversity of her work through those experiences. From these grassroots moments, she learned and developed her own style, and Mulganai was born.
Rachael Sarra is an artist and designer whose work is an extension of her being and experiences. As a contemporary Aboriginal artist from Goreng Goreng Country, Rachael uses art as a powerful storytelling tool to educate and share Aboriginal culture and its evolution. Rachael’s work often challenges and explores society’s perceptions of what both Aboriginal art and identity are.