You would have seen your tiddas rocking The Koorie Circle earrings at NAIDOC marches, meet Laura Thompson – the woman behind the brand. Many of us know Laura from her inspiring work on the VAHS Healthy Lifestyle Program. We always get the Healthy Lifestyle Team on board for Kalinya events; they ran yoga sessions at the Koorie Youth Summit and morning walking tours for NATSIEC delegates. And now we also work with Laura through her new company, The Koorie Circle, which was represented at the Aboriginal Enterprise Expo and produces some of our favourite corporate gifts.
What makes you proud to be an Aboriginal woman?
It’s actually something I don’t often reflect on, because my Aboriginality is core to who I am. So when I stop and think about what makes me proud to be an Aboriginal woman, what comes to mind first is my connection to my family and Community and how they shape my connection to culture, the history of this Country and the land.
It’s probably this sense of belonging that I love the most. In the Aboriginal Community everyone cares to know where you fit and belong in the world, I love that!
Who’s your mob?
I’m a Gunditjmara woman. My Grandmother, Edna Brown (nee Clarke) grew up on Framlingham mission. Nan moved to the city with my mother Rose Dwyer (nee Brown) when she was quite young. Framlingham remained an important place in our lives but Collingwood was home. I was born and raised in Collingwood and as a kid, I hung out at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service. I watched my family play key roles in building Community Control in Health, through the creation of this Health Service. I’m from a line of strong Black women and I’m proud of my family and what they have achieved.
Most community members know you as the woman behind the Healthy Lifestyle Program, can you tell us a little about this program and your passion for healthy mind, spirit and body?
My identity as an Aboriginal woman is tied up in the work I do. I have followed in my mother’s footsteps and work in the field of Aboriginal health promotion. I’m passionate and committed to improving the health of our mob. In my role, I focus on keeping our people well and active, creating healthy environments and celebrating the successes of Community members who are leading a healthy lifestyle.
I seriously get a buzz out of the work I do. Every day I get to work alongside fantastic people, making healthy choices and loving life.
Where did the inspiration for The Koorie Circle come from?
You could say I’m a workaholic! I was spending most nights at home working on the Healthy Lifestyles program. Then, I had a moment and asked myself if I wasn’t working my day job after hours what is something else I am passionate about? What is something else I can explore? And that’s when I come up with the Koorie Circle!
The Koorie Circle combines my love of fashion and earrings with Aboriginal culture. I felt there was a gap for Aboriginal women to express their identity and culture, so I started designing Aboriginal earrings made from wood, because it’s so light and natural.
I love sharing these products with Aboriginal women and hope that eventually all women across the world can enjoy them. I have connected with so many women since I started this business and I have made many new friends, I didn’t expect that! I also love how people can connect to each other wearing the earrings by using the hashtags #SistaGirlSelfie and #BruthaBoySelfie
Are the earrings handcrafted? What’s your creative process?
Firstly, I create some drawings and design the earrings, before they are laser cut in Australia from sustainable wood. I then hand paint them, apply a layer of resin, glue on the settings and package them up to send off to the customers. My earrings have travelled all over Australia.
They have taken over the house though and it’s developed into a bit of a family business with the kids and hubby helping me out in the “earring factory”!!
It’s so exciting that we have all of these new ways of expressing our cultural identities. Was this something you were thinking about when coming up with the business idea?
I never thought of The Koorie Circle as a business to start out. It was more of a hobby where I got to share my creations with my sistagirls. Now, I have five shops stocking my products and I was selected as the crafter to produce the Cricket Australia, Indigenous XII pins for Boxing Day.
When I feel stretched I remind myself to be kind to me and to stay focused on what is at the core of the business, which is to provide products for Aboriginal people to express their identity and their connection to their culture. When I see women wear their Aboriginal flag earrings or post a #SistaGirlSelfie photo, that makes me feel happy. One of my other drivers is that, a percentage of the sales are donated to the Family Violence Legal Prevention Service to support Aboriginal victims and survivors or family violence and sexual assault.
I’m looking forward to more collaborations with Aboriginal artists and expanding the range or jewellery on offer.
Check our Laura’s Etsy store HERE