More and more businesses are turning their backs on the January 26 public holiday, and offering their staff another day off.
But, this year, some businesses are taking things a little further by acknowledging a day of mourning and remembrance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Eve Studio is a yoga and fitness business with locations in Brunswick and Preston, Melbourne.
In the past, founder Annie Carter and her team have simply run an alternative timetable on the public holiday, she tells SmartCompany.
It hasn’t been promoting or celebrating Australia Day, as such, but simply catering to members whose schedules have changed.
This year, there will again be a different schedule. But, this time, it’s in acknowledgement of Survival Day.
Classes will begin with an acknowledgement of the Wurundjeri people, the traditional custodians of the land, and all proceeds from the day will be donated to Djirra Victoria, an organisation that supports Aboriginal women who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence.
Several of the team members are also donating their own teaching pay from the day too.
For Carter, this was a way to continue to offer classes on a day when many of the studio’s members would have a day off. But, it was an opportunity to put a different angle on the day.
“What if we make it a day of recognition and acknowledgement of our First Nations people, rather than just ignoring the issues,” she explains.
Personally, Carter has been feeling increasingly strongly that January 26 should not be a date to celebrate. Now, she feels she has to bring that sentiment into her business too.
“It’s been this increasing level of discomfort with it,” she explains.
“Actually, having a business is a really amazing opportunity to express your values, and to put your values into action in a way that is different to doing that personally.”
It’s about playing a part in the conversation, encouraging that conversation among Eve members, and keeping it front-of-mind.
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Not the date to celebrate
Carter isn’t the only small business owner using her platform to spread a message about January 26.
Last week, SmartCompany spoke to Laura Thompson, owner of Aboriginal-owned streetwear brand Clothing The Gap, which is running an educational Instagram campaign to spread awareness of the issues around the public holiday, while also spreading its message via its ‘Not the Date to Celebrate’ tees.
Jarin Baigent, a Wiradjuri woman and owner of yoga mat and activewear business Jarin Street, is using her physical pop-up store in Westfield Warringah to raise awareness through signage, informative posters and tees from Indigenous digital artist K-Rae Designs.
Baigent also heads up Trading Blak, a collective of Aboriginal business owners, which has been behind a drive encouraging tagging and sharing of Indigenous-owned businesses.
Iconic Wiradjuri jewellery designer Kristy Dickinson, who heads up Haus of Dizzy, has also been using her business platform to share information about Invasion Day rallies — as well as to showcase her ‘Abolish the Date’ earrings.
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Elsewhere, Preston retailer Pinky’s has opted to close its physical store on January 26, and to donate all profits from its online store on the day to the Pay the Rent campaign.
Carter notes that non-Indigenous business owners have a responsibility to do some of the heavy lifting here.
Changing the way a business approached January 26 is “really just scratching the surface”, she says.
“There is so much more that needs to be done, but it feels like one way we can do something.”
Businesses taking action, and things such as Cricket Australia changing the language it uses around the holiday are influential things, she says. But the conversation has to continue.
There’s a groundswell here, things are happening, and she wants to be part of it.
“There’s a whole lot that many of us have turned a blind eye to for way too long,” Carter says.
“At some point, you’ve just got to say enough is enough. That point was ages ago.”