My people have been innovating on South Australian Country for more than 60,000 years. As a proud Ngarrindjeri man from South Australia’s South-East, my ancestors developed smart solutions to support their day to-day survival within the harsh Australian environment. For example, we would salvage small intricate bird bones to make fishing hooks and thread with strong pieces of reed found on the banks of Lake Alexandrina. The fish caught would be transported, stored, and protected in baskets and bags crafted out of wetland grasses and reed. In later years Ngarrindjeri inventor David Unaipon took out 19 provisional patents, most notably including the shearing machine, which is the basis of modern mechanical shears, and also pre-World War 1 drawings for a helicopter design based on the principle of the boomerang.
Aboriginal people have a connection to Country and land that is deeply spiritual, a relationship formed in the footsteps of ancestors, and which is passed on through our stories and Song lines. I believe stories and truth telling about our history will not only bring to light colonial conflict and dispossession, but also acknowledge the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures. Our stories we hope will become stories told across the nation, embedding the notion that our culture belongs to all Australians.
With 40% First Nation representation within the Yanun team, we naturally build knowledge sharing and respect into our team culture. For example, at team meetings we take it in turns to acknowledge the Country that we meet on, often in the words of the local community. We now have both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff who can confidently acknowledge Country in the native Kaurna language. Yanun also have a busy cultural calendar, and regularly attend and speak at significant events.
These are examples of why supporting Indigenous businesses to grow and succeed is so important. We are best placed to foster First Nation’s talent, in a culturally safe and supportive environment, while simultaneously engaging non-Indigenous Australians in the beauty, and pain, of the oldest living culture on the planet.
I believe all Australians have a responsibility to help improve the plight of First Nation people. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait culture belongs to all of us.
David Mallett is the founder and Managing Director of Yanun Project Services. On leaving school, David spent a decade in the Armed Forces, including as a Navy Clearance Diver and Special Ops Sniper, and training the Iraqi Police Force, before building a successful career in managing projects in the construction industry. He launched his own project services business, Yanun in 2020. Yanun means ‘to communicate with others’ in Ngarrindjeri, and David delivers a client-first service that has high quality deliverables at its heart. A proud Ngarrindjeri-Kaurna man, David is passionate about supporting young First Nations people into professional careers.