As part of AdNews’ coverage of NAIDOC Week, Country Road brand community and impact manager Fabia Pryor and Cox Inall Ridgeway senior consultant Yatu Widders Hunt discuss their how brands and marketers can amplify the voices of Indigenous Australians.
How did Country Road use its marketing channels during NAIDOC Week 2021?
Fabia: Our journey began in 2019 when we engaged Indigenous-led consultancy, Cox Inall Ridgeway, to run cultural education training with Support Centre staff. This is where we first met Yatu Widders Hunt, a proud descendant of the Dunghutti and Anaiwan Peoples from north-western NSW.
To align with this year’s NAIDOC Week theme of ‘Heal Country’, as a guest contributor, Yatu led an Instagram takeover of Country Road’s social channels to celebrate Country through the eyes of local community members on the ground. Two proud First Nations women, Nina Fitzgerald, from Kakadu, Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands, and Nyikina woman Sara Bergmann, took us ‘on Country’ through Instagram stories, sharing Country through their eyes.
This was an incredible opportunity for our community to engage in NAIDOC Week and provided a platform to amplify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices while celebrating Country.
Yatu: I became involved in the takeover, as our Indigenous agency Cox Inall Ridgeway has been working with Country Road over the past few years. This has been to support and strengthen some of the amazing work they are doing in Indigenous Affairs more broadly, but specifically in storytelling and amplifying Indigenous voices.
The messages we really hoped to convey through this project were around the importance of listening to and acknowledging Country and building an understanding of what Country means from an Indigenous perspective. I think these projects also really do help to affirm that Indigenous history and culture is part of who we all are as Australians- and that that’s a really beautiful thing.
What is the process to create this messaging in the right way?
Fabia: This has been an intentionally slow and considered process to ensure our support is based on the needs and wants of Indigenous designers and artists. Under the principle of co-design, community voices are at the centre of decision making—therefore our role has been to first listen.
Yatu: I think projects like this just go to show how many incredible people, places and stories there are around us, that we don’t often get to see through traditional media. It’s just a great example of what brands and businesses can be doing to shine a light on the things that matter and to drive real social change through storytelling.
The highlight for me was working with Nina and Sara who were able to take us around their Country and speak to the significance of place. At a time when many Australians are in lockdown, it’s also nice to be able to build those connections to Country and to show people incredible places through the eyes of those who live on and care for that Country. To hear Nina and Sara describe the importance of the NAIDOC Week theme in their own words, was really special.
What was the biggest challenge?
Yatu: I think the biggest challenge was really just about how to convey the beauty and spiritual connection to Country in a digital format. We often talk about being on Country which is about fostering those personal and community connections to place and to feeling a sense of that place through the sounds, colours and energy. Having said that, I think we did a really great job of sharing Country and story through social media and we hope it inspires people to go and discover more about the Country they are on.
What are some of the ways Country Road has harnessed its platform to give Indigenous Australians a voice?
Fabia: We’ve worked closely with Yatu, and the Cox Inall Ridgeway team [since 2019] to continue training our teams in cultural competency and draft a set of guiding principles to ensure our approach to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities had strong foundations—grounded in ethical considerations, cultural appropriateness and the principle of co-design. In 2020, we partnered with the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF) and began navigating ways to support meaningful pathways for emerging Indigenous talent.
Through this partnership we support Country to Couture, an annual celebration of First Nations art and design talent, and the National Indigenous Fashion Awards (Fashion Design Category), with the winner going on to undertake a 12 month mentorship with Country Road. We use our platforms to celebrate and amplify First Nations voices and stories, recognising the importance of First Nations voices telling First Nations stories.
Last year we introduced the DAAFF partnership to our community with a takeover by Yatu, interviewing the NIFA finalists. This approach has continued with Yatu now an ongoing Guest Contributor to the Country Road channels.
August 3 and 4 will see the National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA) and Country to Couture runway return to Darwin. We’ll be using our platforms to share the stories behind the collections and profile this year’s NIFA winner.
You can also expect to see more content from Yatu who, as an ongoing Guest Contributor for Country Road, will contribute to share more stories of Country and incredible First Nations artists, designers and changemakers.
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