On Friday 29 October 2021, Kinaway Chamber of Commerce live-streamed their first ever business awards, celebrating the outstanding work of Victorian members and partners in their chosen fields over the past twelve months. It was a night of tradition, entertainment, excitement and even tears of joy as unsuspecting recipients received accolades and awards for exceptional demonstrations of strength, resilience, and innovation.
Pictured above: The 2021 Kinaway Business Awards, are custom red-painted glass courtesy of Wathaurong Glass & Arts
The host for the evening, Shelly Ware is an Australian Aboriginal media and TV host. Shelly kicked off the evening with a special acknowledgement to country thanking elders for caring for the sky, water ways and land for our enjoyment and that of future generations. She explained that the word Kinaway means exchange for business or knowledge in Gunaikurnai language which was why the homelands of Gunaikurnai people in Gippsland was chosen for the welcome to country. In an intimate outdoor setting, Aunty Sandra Paton performed the ceremony. Aunty spoke saying that the welcome to country is one of many footprints identifying Aboriginal people’s connection to the land. Passed down through generations through stories and drawings, the smoking ceremony has been practiced for more 60,000 years. She explained the branches of the cherry tea tree are put on the fire to generate smoke with a sweet scent to ward off bad spirits bought into the area by visiting Aboriginal clans.
Back in the studio, Scott McCartney, the CEO of Kinaway welcomed the audience to the awards recognising the fighting spirit of Aboriginal businesses during the tough economic environment created by the Covid19 pandemic. He thanked State government for their support particularly the Minister of Small Business, Jaala Pulford for her support of self-determination for Aboriginal businesses.
Karen Milward, the Chairperson of Kinaway’s Board celebrated the significant growth in Kinaway membership and the Kinaway team, from 113 members in 2019 to 403 members, and from 6 to 25 staff members with 70% of staff identifying as Aboriginal. She confirmed that the Kinaway Hub, a place for businesses to work and connect was established and that there are plans to establish a Kinaway Hubs in regional Victoria. After that, it was awards time.
The first award for the night was the Social Media Excellence Award. First time nominee Vital Effect Skin + Health Clinic was the winner for demonstrating excellence in marketing and achieving outstanding business results.
The Social Enterprise Award, which recognised the reduction of barriers to poverty and hardship went to Indigenous Employment Partners for their creation of culturally safe employment packages. Sarah stated that if closing the gap continues at the current rate then it will be another 200 years to reach parity.
The Regional Business Award acknowledges a regional business that has made a significant contribution to their community or their industry. The winner was TVN on Country for several initiatives that included high school career expos, the establishment of a not- for -profit and a bushfire regeneration project. The business started as an idea to work with best mates and create a happy place to work and has grown to be a business that helps all in the Sale community.
Wayne Quillam Photography was the recipient of the Creative Business Award. Wayne’s uniqueness lies in capturing stories of local communities using various mediums including photography, cinematography and droning. He currently has an exhibition in Berlin, Amsterdam and New Zealand.
Ngarga Warendji and Alperstein Designs won the Best Collaboration Award for working together to produce a range of gifts, homewares, and textiles. While the two businesses have a long history of working together, the award recognised the new successful homewares range that has been developed in the last 12 months.
Pictured above: Kee’ahn, a proud Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal, Zenadth Kes song woman who performed at the Kinaway Business Awards 2021
The next award celebrated Corporate Partners for their collaboration and engagement with Kinaway members. Aqua Metro Services, Melbourne Water and Wara Paring Civil were the the winners for their truly unique consortia enabling the creation of a 100% Indigenous business based on a vision and a genuine commitment to create meaningful change for Aboriginal people.
Scott introduced Kee’ahn, a 23 year old Kuku Yalalji, Jirrbal and Badu Island songbird. She completely embodied her name delivering soulful melodies while strumming guitar. Kee’ahn sang Smoke, the first song she ever wrote, followed by Better Things. Her beautiful smile and words of healing and empowerment had the audience totally captivated.
After Kee’ahn’s magical performance, the Up and Coming Business Award was won by First Nations Traffic Management. This company had no employees in January 2020 and is one of the fastest growing Indigenous businesses in Victoria with over 250 employees, many of whom might be considered by some to be unemployable. This lovable trio have helped many people start a new life by giving people a go.
The Sistas in Business Award was created to commend women that demonstrated growth, resilience, and perseverance throughout the challenging times of Covid. Panku Safety Solutions was the 2021 winner. The female owner operating in a male-dominated industry supplies specialised technical personal protective equipment. She said, for every tidda out there that has been forging through with determination and grit.. and still has a business.. with family and home-schooling this award belongs to all of us, …tell yourself you are awesome”.
The Resilience Award acknowledged business owners that have demonstrated incredible determination and adapted to the punishing challenges that our environment has thrown our way, bushfires, floods, drought, and the pandemic. There were 2 winners Cooee Café, the only Indigenous café on the Mornington Peninsula that survived by creating gift packs containing goodies with uniquely Australian flavours and Gerrbik Laundry Services. In such a short period of time, Nicole went from a long history of supplying airlines to growing a second business, Gerrbik and she says she’s cool and deadly now and coming back with a vengeance.
The final two awards of the evening were the Excellent Awards which were in recognition of a Kinaway member and a Corporate Partner for their commitment to purchasing from and providing opportunities for Aboriginal businesses. Scott thanked all corporate partners for their support of Aboriginal businesses. The Excellent Award was won by Major Road Projects (MRP) Victoria. In working with their client contractors on infrastructure projects, MRP have embedded a procurement approach which created opportunities for the participation of Aboriginal businesses in the supply chain.
Karen Milward presented the Member’s Excellent Award in celebration of exceptional business achievement across business, cultural and social determinants. The winner for 2021 was Yarn Strong Sista. The owners thanked their loyal customers and team for their role in empowering First Nation’s people.
The night concluded with a big thank you to all involved in bringing these inaugural Business Awards together, the businesses nominated, and the Kinaway Board. The very talented Kee’Ahn closed the night with her song about her favourite place called “Sweet Spot”, some fitt ing words for a celebration that in 2022 will be live.
Kinaway is the Chamber of Commerce for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses in Victoria. Kinaway’s role is to provide business support and advice, facilitate networks and relationships to create business opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the pursuit of self-determination.