VIEW: The Rise and Importance of Ethical Fashion

The below is a guest post from Niccii Kugler, founder of ethical and sustainable online marketplace Nash + Banks.

In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Over 1000 were killed in the destruction, even though workers had been voicing their concerns over the building’s safety for weeks. 

In the years following the Rana Plaza disaster, conditions did improve with the introduction of The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Despite these changes, however, inequality remains rife, with the European Parliament using the term “slave labour” to describe the current working conditions of garment workers in Asia. 

How the fashion industry is interfering with human rights

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is a problematic one. And, although there have been many positive changes throughout the years, environmental issues and human rights abuses are still prevalent. The fact is that the majority of fashion retailers don’t own their manufacturing facilities. Subcontracting is incredibly common, making fashion supply chains a murky and complex labyrinth. Every twist and turn takes these brands further from accountability, and human rights violations are easily hidden from the public’s sight. Did you know:

  • The International Labour Organisation states that of the 260 million children in employment worldwide, 170 million are engaged in child labour, and at least 6 million are in forced labour.
  • In India and Bangladesh, the Fair Wear Foundation reports that at least 60% of garment factory workers experience harassment at work. However, this figure is likely to be underreported because of fear of retaliation.
  • An estimated 27 million people working in the fashion industry suffer work-related diseases or illnesses each year.

The rise of ethical fashion

The advent of COVID-19 forced many of us to reconsider our priorities and think about what mattered most to us, and investing in ethical and sustainable fashion is something that many consumers are embracing.

However, the fact is that the operating practices of clothing manufacturers are shrouded in mystery. If consumers want to find out where their clothing comes from, how it’s made, and the social and environmental impacts of production, we need to spend hours digging into reports and data, poring through statistics and lengthy essays. 

Luckily, there are resources that have done all the hard work for us – researching supply chains and certifications.  With easy access to a plethora of information on the environmental and social implications of fashion, we’re seeing a global cultural shift when it comes to purchasing decisions as millennials and Gen Zs grow their stake of spending power. Ethical, sustainable, minimal waste and slow fashion are gaining momentum, and brands are starting to take note. 

Riding the wave of change

These changes are starting to spill over into the mainstream with The Ethical Trading Initiative’s “Corporate Leadership on Modern Slavery” Report (which polled 61 global sourcing executives with a combined buying power of $100 billion) finding that 82% of companies believe that addressing human rights within their core business model is the most significant strategic indicator of corporate leadership on modern slavery. Meanwhile,  93% of companies highlighted that they have a responsibility not only to do everything in their power to address it but also to ensure that workers most affected are protected from further harm and compensated appropriately.

The fashion and textiles industry has, thus far, been slow to adapt and make the necessary changes to the status quo. But this all changed with the pandemic, which accelerated and magnified problems that already existed in the supply chain. With the advent of COVID-19, supply and demand levels were radically altered, while temporary trade restrictions and shortages highlighted weaknesses in production strategies. Multiple national lockdowns slowed and temporarily halted the flow of raw materials and finished goods. And, of course, numerous organisations suffered staff shortages and losses, which further impacted their operability. 

As global supply chains abruptly and drastically changed in 2020, this mass disruption has accelerated the need for a genuinely systemic transformation towards a more sustainable model. Intentional or not, our existing reality has changed, and it’s paved the path for a new way of doing things. 

About the expert

After the birth of her second child, Niccii Kugler found her awareness of the increasing cost  of overconsumption became really heightened. Frustrated by a sense of helplessness, she  started searching for brands that offered alternatives and discovered an inspiring community  of change-makers, innovators and artisans all dedicated to rewriting our future.  

However, the process of researching and vetting products and brands is time-consuming and when Niccii couldn’t find one  lifestyle platform that offered her what she was looking for she decided to build it herself. 

Curated online marketplace Nash + Banks was officially launched in 2018, providing conscious consumers with an easy way to discover and shop for brands and products that are committed to having a positive impact on people and the planet.

Image description: Niccii Kugler, founder of ethical and sustainable online marketplace Nash + Banks at home in Avalon Beach. Niccii is sitting on a wooden chair at her desk in front of a laptop. She is turning around and looking to the side. She has short, blonde hair and is wearing a sleeveless black outfit. There are photos and framed images on her walls, and a pot plant and guitar on either side of her desk.


PEOPLE: Leading inclusion for thousands of staff and an ecosystem of millions of customers

It is well documented that more diverse teams generate more revenue and innovation for companies, and can also be positive drawcards for new talent, yet many companies are still struggling to development and implement effective diversity and inclusion policies.

In this interview, Ross Wetherbee, Talent & Inclusion Leader at TAL, shares how he and his organisation are addressing diversity and inclusion with staff and stakeholders, how these approaches have evolved throughout the pandemic, and how they are looking ahead to drive diversity and inclusion across the organisation in 2021.

  • What is your approach to measuring the impact of your diversity and inclusion policies at TAL? How do you know when something is or isn’t working? 

It’s important for organisations to focus on creating an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion.  

When it comes to encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace, leaders can’t just ‘talk the talk’, they also need to ‘walk the walk’. Fostering diversity and inclusion starts at the top and business leaders have a critical role to play in bringing diversity and inclusion to life. 

At TAL, a real marker of success internally is seeing our leaders and the broader business taking ownership of inclusion and diversity. For me personally, I feel very proud when I see our leaders really thinking about the diversity of their people and being thoughtful and considerate in their priorities and what they promote within their teams.  

From a metric perspective it is also important to measure the diversity of your people – what are their backgrounds, who are they and how included they feel as part of the team. This ultimately helps us to stay on track. 

  • Have you ever had a ‘failed’ diversity or inclusion policy? If so, what happened? 

Not personally, or professionally, however it is important that when you’re designing an inclusion policy or strategy, that you consult your people. It’s also of utmost importance that when a policy specifically addresses the needs of a particular group of your people, that they are at the centre of its design.  

A number of years ago at TAL, we introduced standards and procedures to support any of our people affirming their gender identity at work. In creating these we did so in close consultation with our TAL Pride (LGBTQ+) Employee Network in addition to consulting with external experts to provide additional guidance. The end result is a document that not only supports individuals, their manager, and team, but also the broader organisation to understand the experience of others.  

  • As a large company, there would be a broad range of views across the organisation. How do you address situations when someone is not supportive or is dismissive of the D&I work your team is  doing? 

As an organisation, TAL’s inclusion priorities are determined by our people. This ensures that they are reflective of our people’s needs and what they want to see the business prioritise. It’s important to understand that large companies are made up of an incredibly diverse group of people and customers. This is what makes large organisations great – we can ensure that we truly reflect the diversity of our customers to meet their needs. 

For me, it is of great importance to focus on inclusion for all of our people, and not only the specific priority areas to address. It’s critical that everyone at TAL feels they can be their true selves at work, in order to unlock their potential and enjoy a rewarding career. 

  • How has your team’s approach to diversity and inclusion evolved since the pandemic? 

The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of maintaining a strong company culture and the role that diversity and inclusion play within that. Despite the challenges experienced since the pandemic began, business leaders must ensure they continue to prioritise initiatives and invest in resources, so their teams remain diverse, inclusive, and equal. 

Through the pandemic I have seen leaders bringing their teams together virtually in some very thoughtful and creative ways. Through what has been an extremely challenging time, as an organisation we have learnt how to pivot quickly to maintain connection with our people and there are some practices that I am sure all  organisations will continue into the future – namely more consistent access to different ways of working, and utilising technology platforms to better work as a dispersed organisation. 

At TAL, we have a strong track-record of commitment to inclusion, diversity and belonging for all of our people and this has not changed since the pandemic. We take a considered approach to understanding our progress in the diversity and inclusion space and we participate in external benchmarking programs like the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) Employer of Choice for Gender Equality and Pride in Diversity’s Australian Workplace Equality Index. These insights are then overlayed with feedback from our people as we value the opinions of our people and we want them involved in our decision making.  

As an organisation, prioritising a commitment to diversity and inclusion and creating a sense of real belonging for your people enables to you achieve better results. 

  • How are you seeing conversations around diversity and inclusion changing and what does this mean for corporate Australia in 2021 and beyond? 

Creating change and momentum in diversity and inclusion is a process that requires conscious thought and investment. Businesses need to encourage people to be themselves by celebrating people for who they are. This is an ongoing process and one that requires constant support. Measurement is a critical marker of success, and clear measures to track efforts when it comes to diversity and inclusion can help organisations stay on track.  

Diversity and inclusion is not something that can be implemented overnight, and it takes time to get it right. It took a long time to get to this conversation, so it’s no surprise that it’s going to take a bit of time to manifest real change in the space. 

The future is bright, and I look forward to continuing to see more positive conversations being had around  diversity and inclusion.

About the expert

Ross Wetherbee is Talent & Inclusion Leader at TAL, a leading Australian life insurance specialist. At TAL, Ross is accountable for group-wide Diversity & Inclusion, Talent, and Emerging Talent strategies and programs.

Image description: Ross is wearing a navy collared shirt and a red ribbon badge. He is in an office in front of a blurred TAL logo, which is green in capital letters.

PEOPLE: Why Joan launched an open source trans inclusion policy

Joan Westenberg, the founder of agency and creative capital fund Studio Self, is a transgender woman, and developed, an open source trans inclusion policy, which is now used by hundreds of technology companies and venture capital funds globally.

With almost two thirds of Australians saying they conceal parts of their identity when at work, and recent research finding 61% of queer employees hide their sexual orientation at work, the broad uptake of Joan’s initiative should come as no surprise while many employers are still navigating how to become truly inclusive for transgender employees.

In this interview, Joan shares what the response to has been like so far, and how she has noticed changes in corporate views towards transgender issues in recent years.

  • What kind of feedback have you been receiving since launching

The support I’ve had honestly took me by surprise. People from some of Australia’s largest tech companies have reached out to talk about how they’ve drawn from the policy, and how it’s helped to inspire the work they’re doing in diversity and inclusion; and we’re talking about billion dollar unicorns. The feedback I’ve had is that this is making a difference. It is a way for people to reach the levels of support in their career that they deserve. But it’s also an opportunity for companies and workplaces to stand up and be the best version of themselves.

  • Was this expected, or did you expect a different response? Why?

It’s always frightening, launching a new product as a marginalised person. And to be honest, there was a little bit of a negative backlash from transphobic trolls. I received the usual death and torture threats from various insecure bigot types. But overall, I think the positive response I had is what I both expected and hoped for. I am a firm believer that most humans are good people, who want you to be yourself, and will love you, whoever you are.

  • How are you seeing views around transgender issues evolving in corporate settings?

I think we’re reaching a point where people no longer feel like coming out as transgender in a workplace means the end of your career. And that’s a monumental shift. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I know there’s often complaints from various folks about rainbow capitalism or corporations being involved in pride, but the reality is that shift in the workplace means there are opportunities for trans people who might not have had a job or a way to live and feed themselves a couple of decades ago.

  • What do you see as the biggest misconception about transgender inclusion in the workplace today? Is this different to misconceptions around transgender inclusion in recent years?

I think the misconception is that trans inclusion is hard. But it really isn’t. It’s just about offering folks the basic levels of human respect, love, care and dignity that we all deserve.

About the expert

Joan Westenberg is an award winning Australian PR director, contemporary writer, angel investor and creative. Joan is the founder and CEO of PR and communications firm Studio Self. Her approach to messaging, communication and semiotics has built her reputation as a writer, and she has been named as one of the leading startup voices in Australia by SmartCompany.

Her writing has appeared in The SF Chronicle, Wired, The AFR, The Observer, ABC, Junkee, SBS, Crikey and over 40+ publications. Her regular work can be found on Pizza Party, sharing notes on growing as a creative, a founder, an investor and a human being.

Image description: Joan is holding and speaking into a microphone on stage in front of a projector screen. She is wearing a black blouse, has curly, black, shoulder-length hair, and is wearing black-rimmed glasses, a gold, heart-shaped necklace, and a black watch.

PEOPLE: How Shanya is helping consumers transition from ownership to usership

According to recent research by Levi’s, more than half of Aussies admit that about 10% of the new clothes they purchase are only worn once, or not at all, which is no insignificant considering over 30% of Australians own between 50-150 pieces of clothing items.

Despite the rise in popularity of sustainable fashion, many Australians are still confused about the various labels and certifications, and are struggling with information overload or the challenge of having to do further research to know the difference between fact and spin.

One local entrepreneur, Shanya Suppasiritad, intends to address these issues by making it easier for consumers to simply buy less. Shanya’s new brand-to-consumer fashion rental technology, Rntr., cuts out the need for 3rd party hire platforms and allows consumers to rent products direct from the brand’s own e-commerce platform via the “Rent with Rntr” button.

In this interview, Shanya explains why she started Rntr., how it works, and what the future of sustainable fashion looks like for younger generations.

  • What sparked the idea behind Rntr.? 

As a former personal stylist, I realised how hard it was to be sustainable in the fashion industry. Essentially my job was to encourage people to buy more things and not everyone has the budget to only consume sustainable and ethical brands, and back when I was styling there weren’t so many of them either. 

Even those brands who were more ethical, can only be as sustainable as the system allows them to be. They still have to make more items to sell in order to make more money. I truly believe that that’s the issue we are all facing. I then thought to myself; how can I help fashion brands remain or increase the profit margin without producing more items?

That’s where Rntr. was born – a user-led design solution to provide fashion brands with a second revenue stream while producing less and connecting more with their consumers. 

  • How does it differ from the rental options already in the market? 

Rntr. works with fashion brands to enable them to offer the rental services directly from their own website to their customers. We are somewhat like a semi white label, we do all the heavy lifting while building brand trust so that customers can enjoy quality and authenticity of the garments and rental service. We want brands to be part of empowering and encouraging the change in consumer behavior by making it easier for them to create a circular experience for their customer as an additional option to buying. 

  • How did you know there would be a big enough market for this product? 

Consumer behavior is changing, and it’s driven by millennials and Gen Z. They no longer want to consume fashion in the traditional way. Millennials were the first to embrace the sharing economy and Gen Z were born into it, they value usership rather than ownership. 

Rntr. set out to drive the market rather than just taking the current market share. The fashion rental industry is sitting at 1% of the industry as a whole. Currently it’s being dominated by a few heavy weights. We have created a plugin solution and infrastructure that enables every single brand in the world to be able to participate in the rental market directly from their own website. In the next 5-10 years most brands will have to jump on board or they will be left behind. 

  • How are you seeing consumer attitudes around sustainable fashion shifting in 2021? 

Since 2017 the consumer’s behavior has already begun to change, and the search for ‘sustainable fashion’ has increased significantly. 2021 is going to be interesting. We are all still recovering from COVID and adjusting our lives to the ‘new normal’. 

According to the Good On You article, “Research by McKinsey revealed “57% of shoppers agreed that they had made significant changes to their lifestyles to lessen their environmental impact.” What’s more, the study found that “64% of shoppers decreased their spending on clothing and footwear during the pandemic.” So it looks like conscious shoppers will keep pushing brands to produce more eco-friendly and responsible clothing in 2021.

Brands will be asked to do more and won’t get away with anymore Greenwashing in exchange for their customers to keep swiping their credit cards. They need to find a way to engage deeper with their consumers beyond one time purchasing. 

  • What are your plans for Rntr. over the next 3 years? 

We are on track to bring more brands on board to step into the rental market. We have a really cool partnership that we are cooking up – it’s all very exciting! In 3 years we are hoping to be able to provide accessibility to most people that don’t want to own a rotation section of their wardrobe anymore, they rather have access to it when they choose to do so.

About the expert

Shanya Suppasiritad is a Sydney-based former personal stylist and fashion designer turned entrepreneur who was motivated to make a positive change to the toll the fashion industry is taking on the planet after watching the documentary The True Cost.  Recognising that the sharing economy had potential for fashion, she founded peer-to-peer wardrobe-sharing platforms Tumnus and Coclo in 2018 and 2019 respectively, before turning her focus to helping brands rent directly to their customer base. In 2021 Suppasiritad unveiled Rntr, an all-in-one software and logistics solution. The next generation fashion rental technology provides a customised branded subscription website for brands whilst managing warehousing, dry cleaning, packaging, pick, pack and post service for them and simplifying the process of renting fashion for consumers.

Image description: Shanya is sitting cross-leffed on a chair, wearing a black T-shirt, red floral pants, and white sneakers. She is smiling and looking to the side, with one hand in her long, black, wavy hair.

Image by Monica Pronk.

People: How hairdressing paved the way towards a diverse and inclusive mentoring platform

The below is a guest post from Joan Dellavalle, owner of Ebony and Ivory.

As an international student who arrived in Perth from Zambia in 2001, I had never felt so excluded as when I sat in a local hairdresser chair trying to get my hair washed and blow dried. The experience though gave me the courage to use whatever savings I had to study, become a hairdresser and open my own inclusive salon space – Ebony and Ivory.

What does an inclusive salon space look like?

For me, it is a space where people of all backgrounds – race, colour, culture – can come in and not feel like what I felt two decades ago: that having a different type and style of hair is not something to be ashamed of, but an opportunity to learn more about other people’s diversity – their uniqueness.

Achieving an inclusive social space such as Ebony and Ivory does not have its roots in large amounts of funding or being able to recreate the current “it” style.

Instead, it comes down to acceptance and a genuine interest to listen, discover and empathise with other people’s stories – funnily something that I feel are the characteristics you need when you are a hairdresser!

After all, how many of us have talked non-stop, divulging often personal stories or funny incidents with our hairdressers?

To that end, creating an inclusive salon space at Ebony and Ivory involved:

  • Creating a warm brand that says “we’re open to anyone.” It’s amazing how things such as the design of your logo and what language and image you post on social media can say about you and your business!
  • Hiring and training hairdressers from diverse backgrounds and importantly with an interest in not just hair but the people under the comb, hairdryer, colour brush.
  • Taking that inclusive space to outside of the four walls of a salon! More on this…

From the salon to the streets of Perth

Hair salons are a grapevine of stories and I realised, a place to understand more what’s happening “out there.”

Two styles of stories generally come out – one of inspiration and the other of challenges – the latter often of how young people are lacking positive role models and the opportunity to learn about diversity, difference and a different perspective.

After years of listening to such countless, remarkable stories, I was reminded of how in Zambia, we would spend time with our Elders, just listening and talking as they shared their knowledge and wisdom. Here we learnt about the power of listening, of possibilities, of accepting, of being open to difference.

The stories and my experience of sharing them gave me the idea to create a diverse and inclusive space to the streets of Perth. That’s how the Ebony & Ivory Masterclasses and Mentoring Program began!

Since 2017, I have myself run more than 21 lifeskills Masterclasses, sharing my own story of changing exclusion towards inclusion and collaborating with role models (such as Dr Rishelle Huma, CEO of Indigenous Women in Mining, Florence Drummond and international educator and Oprah’s favourite guest of all time, Dr Tererai Trent) who didn’t let difference get in their way of achieving their dreams and also advocating for diversity and inclusion.

We start the Masterclasses with setting a promise to each other how we can all contribute to creating a safe, inclusive and diverse space to gather.

These Masterclasses are mostly aimed at adolescents – to date we’ve had over 80 – go through one-day through to seven week programs, designed around learning and accepting difference via immersive storytelling such as:

  • Watching the movie and talking about A Wrinkle in Time to talk about differences in spirituality;
  • Collaborating with relevant organisations such as Edmund Rice Centre to connect and listen to stories of refugees;
  • Open discussions about bullying and overcoming stigma, run by youth leaders or positive role models who have themselves experienced these challenges.

You know that it is possible for anyone, everyone, including a small business such as mine, to make a difference when you have the same young people return to your programs – confident and comfortable in themselves – to teach others about acceptance.

About the expert

Joan Dellavalle is the creative mind behind Ebony & Ivory hair and beauty. The Perth celebrity stylist and fashion designer has forged her Zambian routes into building the powerhouse salon that is Ebony & Ivory. The refreshing and colourful energy of Joan allows each client to feel as they are family when they walk through the Perth CBD store.

To find out more about Ebony and Ivory and our work towards a more diverse and inclusive community:

Image description: Joan is standing with her hands together, presenting in front of an audience, with three black, leather armchairs behind her. She is wearing a dark green velvet blazer over a matching green blouse, has blue, curly hair, and is smiling.

PEOPLE: How Cherie Johnson built her business, lost it overnight during the pandemic, and started again

Five years ago, Cherie Johnson started her business, Speaking in Colour, to enable and improve education around Aboriginal perspectives. After several successful years of business growth, the pandemic led to a significant business downturn, and Cherie had to start again.

In this interview, Cherie shares why she started Speaking in Colour in the first place, and how she has perservered through tough times to ensure the business is still moving forward today.

  • What prompted you to start your own business? 

Speaking in Colour Pty Ltd was established in 2016 with the vision to support educators, and embrace and implement Aboriginal perspectives into the classroom. It is mandatory for all teachers to do so however, there are simply not enough local resources to support the teachers in doing this well.

The business started when I was on leave from teaching with my young children. Project work creating resources at night allowed me the opportunity to stay at home with my young family and still make a difference in education by supporting my colleagues.

  • How did you determine the business model and services for the business? How did you know whether there was a market for what you were offering? 

There are several arms to the business. The first was the professional development and resources for the teachers. This started organically as several of the projects I worked on in the early stages were for galleries, creating pre- and post-exhibition resources for the teachers to support the students visiting. This helped engage the students in their learning, developing a greater understanding of the content while the teachers felt empowered by the approved teaching support material.

Demand drove the supply and diversification of the resources, leading into education kits, cultural programs at schools linked to key learning area (KLA) outcomes and further endorsed professional development.

From this place we had enquires from the business, government and corporate sectors. Over time we refined our offerings, which we continue to diversify and modify to suit geographic location, objectives, and fit for the organisation size including online offerings.

Today our span crosses preschool professional development right up to the corporate space with the aim to support organisations’ and individuals’ cultural education journeys through our training and cultural experiences.

  • What have been your biggest challenges with running your own business? 

Learning how to run a business while balancing the why, that is making sure the impact we want to achieve is in the forefront of our mind. It’s one thing to work in your business, it’s another to work on it well. Understanding billable hours, time and money budgets, working smarter by understanding your demographic and how to make the impact you hope you can.

  • How did the pandemic impact your business? 

Massively, we lost 100% of our business overnight.

So, we took the opportunity to get busy and work on all the research and development we had wanted to do for ages. Fortunately, one of our large contracts advised we could continue with our training contract if we could go online. For a long time I had wanted to create an online option to supplement and support our professional development for teachers and business/government – here was the opportunity. Within three weeks we had over 10 hours of content created and at pilot stage. We continued to create and with a brilliant team we were able to deliver the contract better than we had originally expected.

Post-COVID, if that is where we are, we are back to delivering programs and products we had pre-COVID, however we now also have several other online options we are constantly refining.

  • In your view, how did the events of 2020 impact the way Australians view Aboriginal culture? Has this impacted the way you run your business?

There is a growing awareness of injustices and rightly so. I have found the majority of Australians are surprised when taught the real history of this country and surprised at the level of racism, systematic disadvantage and disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people still evident today despite an individual’s socioeconomic status. The #Blacklivesmatter movement, the Intellectual property and copyright debate over the Aboriginal flag, the #wearitblackwednesdays are all people movements we should be aware of. This is growing.

Generally, we have found people are hungry to understand how can they be part of the solution. Our recommendation is diversifying your viewing, reading and listening. Look to the Aboriginal authors, story tellers and journalists to help challenge and shape your understanding.

At Speaking in Colour, a large part of what we do is support business and individuals do exactly this. We now provide online weaving experiences for anyone to participate in. Via our online shop we have two Creative Kids options, whereby you can use your Creative Kids vouchers to purchase two packs which are posted to you, all inclusive of the voucher value. We provide cultural capacity training for groups and individuals. Our cultural immersion wellness and team building sessions have become a very popular way for teams to learn and connect with each other post-COVID.

We hope to continue to make a difference and are honoured every time we are invited into workplaces, especially when we have been referred by our community to represent our people.

About the expert

Cherie Johnson is a proud Gamilaroi and Weilwun woman from Northern NSW, who resides in Newcastle, and participates as an active member of the Awabakal Community. Daughter of Dawn Conlan, Granddaughter of Rachel Darcy, and great granddaughter of Charlotte Wright.

Cherie is Founder and Owner of Speaking in Colour, an Aboriginal education and training company based in the Hunter region providing: training, cultural experiences and Aboriginal education resources for Corporates, Government and educational sectors.

On leave from her Visual Arts and photography teaching position Johnson is currently a PHd candidate and casual lecture at the University of Newcastle in Aboriginal culture and Education.

Image description: Cherie is wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt and is standing in front of a light brown wall.

ADVICE: How Eunica Liu started her own cloth nappy business from scratch

Australia uses an estimated 3.75 million disposable nappies every day, making up a significant portion of household waste entering landfill. One alternative that has evolved rapidly in recent years and is now a sizeable market of its own, is cloth nappies. In this interview, Eunica Liu shares her experiences with starting her cloth nappy business and how she managed customer feedback along the way.

  • How did you approach understanding the market and marketing opportunity for cloth nappies?

I was incredibly lucky in that there were Facebook groups and communities dedicated to cloth nappies. I spent six months lurking and absorbing as much knowledge as I could, identifying the key pain points for parents/carers using cloth and finding a way to solve them.

  • At what point did you know it was a market opportunity worth pursuing?

I felt like our product addressed a gap in the market. It didn’t reinvent the wheel, but built on existing designs and made them better.

  • How did you take the first steps in building the business from scratch?

Most women who start cloth nappy businesses do so because they have used cloth nappies and want to make their own. They also benefit from having little ones to test their initial designs and samples.

I didn’t have my own little bottom to trial nappies, but what I lacked in this area, I made up for by constantly seeking and responding to feedback, creating a VIP Group so that I could connect with my customers and ask for their thoughts. Our customers will take the time to give us feedback because they know we will address their concerns, however minor.

I was also able to dedicate 100% of my time to the business because I didn’t have to run after a little one or take breaks for feeding/bedtime routines. This meant that I was able to respond to emails at 1am, or within 10 minutes of receiving it, even on a Sunday. A lot of our very loyal customers became loyal because of this – and I know because they tell me that this was the clincher.

  • How do you incorporate and balance the needs of being price-friendly, fashionable, and eco-friendly in the business model?

I have discovered that I am a pretty average person. So if I’m not ready to pay $X for a product – no matter how pretty and no matter how many bottles it saves from landfill – then it is unlikely someone else will. And no matter how amazing a product is, if there is no demand for it, it will sit unsold and eventually contribute to more landfill.

  • What’s your advice to other budding entrepreneurs considering starting their own business?

There is no time like the present. If you chip away at it each day, you will find that you get a lot more done than you anticipate. If you go “I’ll do it when X happens”, you’ll find that other things will pop up to prevent you from doing it.

  • What were your biggest challenges along the way?

Entitled customers. I’d like to think that my skin has gotten thicker over the years, but there are still days when an angry email from an unreasonable customer will throw my day out.

  • How do you recommend other entrepreneurs approach these kinds of challenges?

Tally up the angry customer emails and look at it as a percentage of your customer base. As you grow, you will inevitably come across more varied types of people but it is helpful to remember that they are a small minority of your much larger customer base.

About the expert

I’m Eunica and I’m passionate about making a social and environmental difference! Monarch came about through my desire to create a self-sustaining avenue for real change. I wanted to create an easy-to-use cloth nappy system that is no harder than disposables, and help transition more families into cloth. We create stunning, exclusive prints to make sure everyone is on board. All this while donating at least 10% of profits to customer-nominated charities.

Image description: Eunica is standing in a field in a patterned blue dress and black cardigan.

VIEW: Merely Being compliant is not a point of difference to be proud of in the disability sector

As the disability sector is facing a range of headline-making issues, including a new NDIS Minister and pushback from the industry to proposed changes to the NDIS, this interview outlines experiences and insights from River Night, CEO and founder of Australian Communities, about how he is using his passions, lived experience of disability, and skills to drive change in the disability sector.

  • What currently drives you in your work?

After 24 years working in the disability sector, I’ve seen so many changes and so much worry, innovation, skepticism, new ideas, unclear agency directions but also, great feedback and solutions from people purchasing services and service providers. I go to work each day because I see a chance and opportunity to provide leadership and a platform for people to be heard and to be the voice of the sector for people who don’t have one.

I want to support and create ways to shape how Australia can get things right for its disability community. I am driven because I can see the opportunity to bring together thousands of service providers, people living with disability and diversity from all over the country. Creating a way for us all to establish events and have think tanks that can power out multiple solutions to what people see as problems and challenges in our sector.

I also get to do this from the position of a service provider, a person with lived experience of disability myself, a carer of family members with disability and diversity, an advocate and a professional. Therefore, if we can get things right, it affects me directly as well.

If I can facilitate events where, as a sector, we pick 10 key worries and problems direct from the people it affects from each event and produce multiple solutions to take straight back to the Agencies involved then that is a huge benefit to everyone involved and is the main thing that gets me up and out of bed every day.

  • What standards in the disability sector are you working on changing? Why?

I have developed a focus on raising the bar and delivering a more principles-based approach to quality standards. I have found you can have all the standards in the world but unless you are actually committed to them and are doing things for the right reasons, then it just doesn’t hit the mark. Without this we continue to see abuse, neglect and breaches of human rights. The key principles I try to focus on and have turned into a practice framework are Transparency, Commitment, Authenticity, Customer Centered Work, Contemporary Practice and Safety. Regardless of how you go about things I strongly believe if you, your staff and the stakeholders involved bring things back to good common principles, people will make the right decisions based on good foundations.

While privatisation has its pros and cons, I believe we need to treat the people that are accessing services as respected and valued customers with the priority to be to deliver a good service. To do this we need to invest more in professional development and raise standards.

A major standard I would like to focus on is service providers excelling and delivering a good product beyond basics. I have seen for too many years a sector where the point of difference between service providers is that they are compliant with legislation and standards as opposed to their competitor that is not. Being compliant with basic legislation or regulated standards is not a point of difference to be proud of. Compliance is a basic, expected first step. That is why I want to focus on raising the bar to deliver a disability community services sector we can all be proud of by really professionalising the sector and the way we work.

  • What are the impacts on our society as a whole when standards in the disability sector are improved?

I am a strong believer that people provide a lot of insight into themselves based on how a community or individual respond to diversity and the treatment of people that need support.

If a person is insecure, uncomfortable, judgmental, and lacking in respect for themselves and others, then their treatment of other people will be very much impacted. The treatment and value of people and the way we deliver support to them through the disability sector tells us a lot about ourselves. I have had no surprises from the horrific stories heard through the Royal Commission as I know these things happen and they continue to happen. Just like many people often have not had contact or understanding of the realities of Aged Care until a loved one goes through it, we often avoid recognising and talking about diversity openly and comfortably. It is harder for abuse and neglect to occur and continue when practices are transparent and there is real accountability along with frequent checks. As a culture it is essential for us to value and put focus on how we respond to disability.

  • What are your views on how the NDIS is currently designed?

There appears to be a disconnect from how it is designed and how it appears to be designed. At a broad level, individualised allocation of funding has been great for many people being able to have some choice and control over who they purchase services from.

After many years, I see many operational matters that could easily be fixed to help providers streamline common things like payment claims and portal features. Simple things that if in a private company, would simply be fixed by way of an IT team. Sadly, being a Government Agency, change is slow.

The plan review process is inconsistent with new delegates causing many issues. If a participant gets a good delegate, the process is simple. If they get a different one, even after many, many reports and supporting evidence, delegates seem to make decisions that just don’t fit and we have to go through the time and wasted resources of immediate reviews. A good system and approach would make some of these processes very simple. For example, a person with a significant lifelong physical disability diagnosed since birth, should not be asked to provide evidence that they still have a disability every review period and argue that they still need staff support. A simple review based on the recommendations of their own professionals that know them well is appropriate.

The introduction of independent assessors also adds to an already worrying design creating more inconsistency. It takes time, close professional relationships and case knowledge to assess and make recommendations for an individual. When a person has an Occupational Therapist, Psychiatrist, Speech Therapist and Guardians appointed, amounting to years of case history, it makes no sense introducing a third party without case history or any previous rapport or relationship to over-ride or replace significant professional input and recommendations. On the other hand, for a person that has no professionals or assessments already, an NDIS assessor would potentially be very helpful. This is the logical and individualised approach that the NDIS needs to demonstrate more of.

  • If you were head of NDIS for a day, what’s one thing you would change? Why?

The many systemic issues and problems of the NDIS and related Agencies cannot be fixed in a day but a good culture and some concrete action to demonstrate good faith could be done tomorrow. I would start by stating clearly that the NDIS recognises the challenges and systemic issues that exist, list them and show vulnerability in leadership through open and transparent language. There are huge benefits and opportunities through a National Scheme but also massive difficulties. It is not rocket science and people know that it is hard to ever get things perfect, so establish some regular flows of communication with the sector that are authentic, including talking about mistakes to ensure that people living with Disability are leading this Agency, sitting in the portfolio and making decisions.

I would mandate on my day of leading the agency, that the outcomes and recommendations would then only be considered once they have been reviewed and endorsed by each state and made up of approval bodies consisting only of people living with disability in Australia. This process would also need to be widely advertised and communicated to the community, so it is seen to be done as well as being done. I would mandate that only when each state can come to an agreement by these groups should policy, process and legislation be drafted. This may overstep the boundaries of the head of Agency but it could be a good start and I am not used to limiting my work to fit in a neat box.

About the expert

River Night is the CEO and founder of Australian Communities. With more than 22 years in Disability, Mental Health, Education, Child Safety, Youth Justice, Quality Systems and Forensic Settings in Government and Non-Government Sectors, as well as lived experience of disability, River Night is an expert in raising the bar and helping 24/7 NDIS Funded Participants.

River has spent two decades supporting participants living with disability, mental illness and complex behaviour, and working with participants who require coordination of a variety of stakeholders including Statutory Agencies.

By applying his own experience in disability, mental health, education, youth detention and child safety, River helps others to set and maintain better standards for the disability sector. He also brings expertise in licensing, forensic disability support, government and non-government roles to his position as a consultant and disability services industry leader.

River’s upcoming events:

Image description: Headshot of River from the waist up. River wears a black, collared shirt.

ADVICE: Nuturing with a hand up, not a hand out – Anthony Cavanagh, CEO of Ganbina

Ganbina is Australia’s most successful Indigenous school to work transition program, with on average 88% of its Year 12 graduates finishing Year 12, compared to the Indigenous average of 66%.

CEO, Anthony Cavanagh, is leading Ganbina’s vision to achieve true social and economic equality for Indigenous Australians within two generations, with an expansion project that is seeing the model rolled out to Indigenous communities along Australia’s east coast.

  • What do you attribute Ganbina’s successes to?

Ganbina began in the late 1990s when the founders of the charity were tasked to fill government jobs with Aboriginal candidates in the Goulburn Valley in Victoria, where 10% of the population are of Aboriginal descent. However, they soon realised they couldn’t find Aboriginal candidates to fill the jobs available to them – the majority of Aboriginal kids were dropping out of school and were unemployed. This meant they didn’t have the skills to do the jobs reserved for them.  

It was soon very clear, that focusing on work placement rather than work readiness doesn’t work to overcome Aboriginal disadvantage.

Instead Ganbina focuses on the pipeline and captures Aboriginal kids from the age of 6 until they are 25 years old – that’s the entire education, employment and training cycle of a young person’s life. Once the education and employment gap is closed in childhood and adolescence, these kids become work-ready and independent adults who then inspire and create change within their communities.

Our focus is on inspiring Aboriginal kids to stay engaged in mainstream education and employment, we help them discover who they want to be but we don’t tell them what they want to be.

Kids know what they want to do when they grow up from a very young age. My 7-year-old grandson wants to be a police officer like his mum. Now that may change as he grows up – but the spark of curiosity is already there.

That spark exists in every kid – Aboriginal and not, and Ganbina nurtures by giving these kids a hand up, not a hand out.

  • How do you plan to achieve true social and economic equality for Indigenous Australians within two generations?

Ganbina’s pilot program was designed from its inception as a 50 year program, which is two generations. We are almost half-way through and will be turning 25 next year. The program is two generations because the research tells us that’s how long it takes to create meaningful change in disadvantaged communities.

For myself, none of the men in my family could read or write. I was the first man in my family to finish high school. Education was what saved me and I passed this onto my own children. Both of my daughters then went on to finish their own education, find fulfilling careers of their choice and now they are starting their own families and my grandkids will continue the same cycle.

I broke the cycle of disadvantage in my own family because education gave me what I needed to succeed. Without it, I don’t know if I would be where I am today.

When we give Aboriginal kids the skills, knowledge and self-belief they need – they will do the rest and create that long-term change within their own families and communities.

On top of that, we are in the process of expanding our model to a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. We know our program works and we want to roll this model out so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can benefit from it.

  • Why is the goal timeframe two generations, not one?

Because that is what the research says we need for long-term generational change to happen. As a country we are working to overcome hundreds of years of Aboriginal disadvantage and that will not change overnight.

Ganbina created a model that is focused on impact, results, early intervention and change. The model focuses on Education, Training and Employment and based on this, we realised we needed 50 years or two generations to go through this model to create the long-term impact we are striving for.

If you think about it, a child is really in some form of education, training and employment from the age of 6 until they are 25 years old – when adolescence ends. That’s the full education life cycle and we need to be with these kids throughout that entire journey so they can unlock their full potential.

  • What are the biggest barriers you’re seeing to Aboriginal children and youth remaining in education, training and employment?

We need to focus on where the gap starts for Aboriginal people, which is as early as 6-years-old when they enter primary school. We know that 4 in 10 Aboriginal children start primary school with some sort of development delay – whether it’s poor motor skills, below average literacy skills or communication skills, that’s almost half. For non-Aboriginal children, that figure is only 2 in 10.

This gap that begins in primary school, continues throughout secondary school, then the workforce and creates the long-term inequalities we see in Aboriginal health today. If you’re an Aboriginal Year 12 student, you have a 66% chance of completing Year 12. If you’re non-Aboriginal, that figure is 89%. However our Ganbina Year 12 participants are 88% likely to finish Year 12 – on par with non-Aboriginal rates.

We need to capture these Aboriginal children from that very young age and fix the gap where it first starts, then continue to give them the skills and knowledge they need to make the most of their individual potential.

Ganbina believes in the hand up – not the hand out approach. We won’t give our secondary school kids an after-school job, but we will work with them so they understand the long-term benefits of that casual job at Kmart or Coles. We’ll help them with their resume and job interview skills – but we won’t apply for the job for them. Once kids are bought in and see the benefits of education, employment and training they just need the right support to unlock what they are already capable of.

  • What role is and should the government be playing in helping to overcome these barriers?

Ganbina has chosen to be independent of government funding, because we knew continuity of this program was so important – and governments change every 3-4 years. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think government has a role to play in overcoming these barriers.

Yes, government should provide financial support but with some important caveats. Financial support should be given only to Aboriginal-led organisations that can prove their impact.

Yes, Aboriginal-led organisations understand community, but that doesn’t mean their programs are working. A study at the Centre for Independent Studies evaluated more than 1000 Aboriginal programs and less than 10 per cent were being evaluated. This means that more than 90% of programs that are aimed at improving Aboriginal welfare don’t even know if their program is making the impact they are wanting to achieve.

Follow up research found that for the small group of programs that are conducting evaluations, only three had strong and rigorous evaluation methods – I am very pleased to say Ganbina was one of those three programs.  

We prioritise independent evaluation because we need to know if what we are doing is working if we want to achieve what Ganbina aims to do.

About the expert

Anthony Cavanagh is an Aboriginal man and the CEO of registered charity Ganbina, which runs Australia’s most successful Indigenous school to work transition program for Aboriginal children and youth aged 6-25 years old. He has more than 20 years’ experience in recruitment and specialises in ensuring Aboriginal children and youth have the skills and education they need to make a successful and sustainable transition to the workforce. 

Image description: Headshot of Anthony smiling at the camera in a black blazer and white-striped collared shirt. He has grey hair and brown eyes, and is in front of a green and yellow background.

ADVICE: Business leaders need to think holistically about tackling ableism

Recent research by the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health has found that “about two thirds of people with disability have reported some kind of violence”, and “women with a disability were more than twice as likely to report sexual violence in the past year compared to women without disability”. The horrifying stats highlight the reality that ableism is ever-present across all aspects of our society and causing real damage.

In this interview, Ainslee Hooper, Anthropologist & Disability Consultant, shares her expert advice and experiences regarding ableism in Australian workplaces, how ableism can and should be managed, how it can be mitigated for future generations, and why a holistic approach is required to tackling ableism.

  • What are the most commonly overlooked forms of ableism you’ve noticed in the Australian workforce? 

I have found the most commonly overlooked forms of ableism are often covert. For example, people are discouraged from going for opportunities that come up in the workplace because superiors have already assumed the individual cannot perform the job like their peers. Still, there is no evidence to show this is the case. It is due to stereotypes that persist.

Another common one has been people with disabilities being excluded from opportunities because the workplace has not considered how things could be done differently. The lockdowns resulting from COVID19 and how the Australian workforce pivoted to keep things running were a real wake-up call. Many workers with disabilities have previously been told accommodations would be too difficult to implement, not logistically possible, etc., and yet these accommodations have been implemented due to the pandemic.

The final one, which is surprisingly huge, is the lack of disability in diversity plans. With disability being the largest minority group, it amazes me that disability is still glaringly absent from many plans. I have found the main reason for this is people are scared to touch disability, so they leave it. This solves nothing and instead allows problems to persist. There are diversity targets for the employment of people with disabilities, but that alone does nothing.

  • How has ableism in the Australian workplace evolved in the last few years?

I want to say things have evolved, but we have such a long way to go. We currently rank 21st out of 29 OECD countries regarding people with disabilities participating in the workforce. So, there are not only issues that persist within the workforce for employees with a disability but also cases of people with disabilities gaining employment, which is a whole other conversation due to the Disability Employment Services system’s flaws.  

  • What has been the pandemic’s impact on ableism and how people with disabilities are viewed in the workplace?

As mentioned previously, there have been considerable changes in the workplace as a result of COVID19. The biggest ones that have benefited people with disabilities are remote working and meetings via technology such as Zoom. Their peers without disabilities have also benefited from these and, as a result, are more aware of the issues faced by people with disabilities. Although for a business that does not have an employee with a disability, this may not be as obvious to them.

  • How are you working with business leaders to combat ableism?

I have been pleased to see businesses being proactive in reaching out to get guidance on improving the experience for not only workers with disabilities but also for their consumers with disabilities. I take a holistic approach, so I’m working with businesses in various ways and at all levels, from top to bottom.

I encourage all businesses I work with to implement a Disability Action Plan, making them aware of issues not previously considered. Working closely with businesses to assist them through this process, they soon see how easy it is to combat ableism and the gaps they need to focus on.

I am also doing speaking engagements to talk about my lived experience. I find storytelling is the most effective way of making people understand the problems and the impact these problems have on people with disabilities. I am always pleased to see people motivated to create change as a result of these sessions.

Many businesses have committees or groups focused on disability-related issues. I perform audits to identify any problems impacting these groups’ smooth functioning or committees to address critical problems effectively.

Finally, I’m also helping businesses identify issues for consumers with disabilities by talking with consumers about their experiences in a confidential manner to provide businesses with insights to gaps and recommendations on improving the experience. My approach to combating ableism is holistic, and I encourage businesses to think holistically too.

  • What are the most common challenges you come across in your work? Why do you think this is?

There are two common challenges I have come across. The first is lack of knowledge. One of my favourite sayings is from Anais Nin – “We see things as we are, not as they are.” There is so much unintentional ableism out there. When people hear the word ‘ableism,’ they often get defensive. It’s rarely intentional but stems from a lack of understanding of what the experience of disability is really like. The problems people with disabilities face are rarely what businesses think.

The second common challenge comes down to money, which brings me to another favourite quote, this one by Olivier Nourry – “Ableism is the natural child of Inaccessibility.” I still often hear businesses say providing for accessibility is not always feasible due to financial constraints. While this is a reality for many, and I don’t dispute this, I would love to see a shift from expense to investment because it allows more people to access your business. I am currently in talks with various parties to discuss how businesses can overcome these issues. Watch this space.

  • What’s your ambition for how ableism is managed in our workplaces?

For starters, we need more disability representation in the workforce. People with disabilities must be the ones who are leading addressing the problems. However, we can’t manage ableism from within workplaces unless we also combat ableism from the outside. My ambition is to encourage and assist businesses in fighting ableism at all levels, and it doesn’t have to be all at once. It’s a slow process, but we can get there. My ambition is to help businesses see the possibilities and the wins this will bring to their customers and society.

About the expert

Ainslee Hooper is an Anthropologist & Disability Consultant with a lived experience of disability as a lifelong wheelchair user. Her business, Ainslee Hooper Consulting helps businesses and organisations identify and remove invisible barriers to reduce the risk of ableism and be more inclusive and accessible. She is also available for speaking engagements tailored to a wide variety of audiences. Ainslee is currently completing a Ph.D @ Deakin University with her thesis examining the experiences of people with disabilities in Geelong during COVID19. You can contact Ainslee on 

She also has a newsletter you can subscribe to by jumping on her mailing list at

Image description: Ainslee is sitting in a garden in a mustard-coloured sweater. She has red hair, hazel eyes, and is wearing glasses.

PEOPLE: How Mei pivoted from a mining career to becoming a sustainability entrepreneur

Mei Yong runs three businesses in the food industry, all of which involve plant-based food products, reducing waste, and using local produce. In this interview, Mei shares her experiences in switching from a career in mining, to turning her ideas into thriving nationwide food and sustainability businesses.

  • At what point did you decide to turn your idea into a business? What was the biggest driver behind this transition?

While I was working within the mining sector, I experienced that life was busy. People wanted quick nutritious authentic foods at home with ease and many people struggled with cooking with flavour. Consumers were time poor and were leaning towards quick food options – that are often unhealthy for the body and the environment – at meal times.

At the same time, food has always been in my blood. My uncle owned one of the first bakeries in Malaysia and my parents opened up one of Perth’s first vegan supermarkets and restaurants in the 1990s.

So, I combined my love for good, clean food with knowledge of what busy people crave to create spice packs and curry pastes that can be used to cook delicious food within minutes. I opted for cleaner, vegan/plant based, gluten free and local products, which also supports our planet.

I saw this gap in the market and decided to give it a go. With the savings that I had from my mining job, I invested into our concept and vision. The key was to continuously listen to your consumers at every stage of the business growth. We changed packaging, we changed price points, we changed so much at the beginning of the business. Listening to how consumers use the product and cook was vital in shaping it to be the brand it is today – an everyday food product suitable for all Australian homes.

  •  What were the biggest challenges along the way, and what were the learnings from those challenges?

Starting a new business has many challenges. When I worked in the corporate world, I specialised in Human Resources Management in the mining and resources sector. It was my focus – people, performance, retention and training. When you are in a small business, you are thrown in to do all aspects of business. From being the manufacturer, to being the marketing guru, the sales lady, the admin and accounts person. Pretty much everything. With limited resources, it was the only way for the business to be viable. To be a very hands on business person.

Although those roles were carried out, you may not be the expert in that field. I have now learnt to delegate, outsource and get help for the areas where your strengths don’t lie. Focus on what you’re good at, direct and lead the rest of the other areas. You will be able to excel a lot quicker. I took the long route to learn this important lesson.

Once you are able to ask for help and delegate, you will find you have more time, energy and passion to do what you are best at, and to work on the business instead of just in the business.

  • How did you make the decision to start a new business, rather than partner with or join an existing business that was working on something similar?

My family have always owned their own businesses in Perth and in Malaysia, particularly in the food sector as mentioned. From baking schools, restaurants and food factories. So I come from an entrepreneurial upbringing, where hard work and vision were the foundations of business. We also came from a poor family and that determination to escape the poverty cycle fuelled our focus to working hard and passionately on our own business – a value we’ve all retained from generation to generation.

So when I pitched my idea to my family, it was encouraged and supported, providing me with a safe foundation to start a business. There was an opportunity, a clear gap in the market, so I took it and they supported it!

I did not work with existing businesses, as other businesses in this space were located on the East Coast of Australia, making it logistically challenging to produce and manufacture.

Also, from the very beginning, we wanted to have a more locavore, sustainable approach and work directly with farmers and fresh produce to keep costs competitive and produce tasting amazing, grown from our region. It also enabled a better-quality product, and more control over the manufacturing process, which was paramount to providing a superior product.

  •  Many consumers are now struggling with information overload when it comes to sustainable living and purchasing. What’s your advice on how to know whether your ‘eco-friendly’ purchase really is ‘eco-friendly’?

Do your research before you buy. Check out their website and contact the manufacturer or retailer with the questions you have to satisfy your curiosity and be confident about their promise before you purchase. Transparency is key in this market and it is important to enquire and take control of your information funnel.

That way, you are in charge of the process and can weed out the noise in the marketplace. You have the right to know what is real and what is presented to you, so I suggest you push for answers to ensure that it aligns with your personal values and ethos.

The other thing I suggest is get to know the language that is often used in the industry to describe the real ingredients and what’s marketing jargon. For example, we know now that the words “natural flavouring” does not mean it is made out of real ingredients. Instead look out for ingredients that you can easily pronounce. For those you don’t, have Google at the ready to find out more about what it is to help you make your purchasing decision.

Here at Turban Chopsticks, we are big on giving information for our customers. We invite our retailers to our factory to see the process at hand, we run Insta stories to show what happens behind the scenes, we encourage people to contact us with their questions, feedback and requests.

  • What are your ambitions for your businesses this year?

We are focusing more on sustainable packaging. We already use recycled biodegradable jars and packaging. Boxes printed with vegetable-based inks that are printed and made in Perth, WA, to reduce the carbon footprint.

We are also currently sourcing bamboo plastic that is biodegradable and seeing what other innovation the market is offering and emerging in this space. Being true to our words and recognising that every business can help fight climate change and make sure our planet is safe and healthy for our kids and their kids is important to us here at Turban Chopsticks.

Sustainability also works when it is shared or part of an ecosystem. When we support and work with each other, we can accomplish so much more.

We have also launched our new artisan chutney range – where we use second grade farm fruit and vegetables and turn them into delicious chutneys and jams. We are working directly with farming regions like the Gascoyne Food Council where we can source directly and help our local farmers. We will continue to foster these partnerships and extend our product range in this space, with seasonal ingredients.

By doing this we help reduce food waste, support other local businesses to also embrace sustainability and importantly, we want to help change the narrative or perception that second grade fruit and veggies – that do not make the ‘perfect grade’ of the big supermarkets – still tastes as good!

Another project focus we have at Turban Chopsticks this year is also working on value-add products, with products that are already being farmed in WA. We are looking at ways to bring WA ingredients to the forefront of the global market through new brand extensions and unique sustainable food concepts. Watch this space.

About the expert

Mei Yong is the Founder, Director, Food Creator and Innovator of Turban Chopsticks – Australian makers of authentic South Asian and South-East Asian ready to eat curry pastes, sauces and meal kits.

Born in Malaysia to Chinese parents and raised in Australia by a full house of foodies, Mei was exposed to a bold variety of cuisines and exotic ingredients.

Mei started Turban Chopsticks out of an inconvenience she encountered early in her working career where she saw busy working professionals turning to fast food, adding fuel to a stressful lifestyle. Mei decided there is a need to offer wholesome, sustainable and good foods that are easy to cook and can be enjoyed by all.

Today, Turban Chopsticks is stocked in over 300 retailers nationwide, is 100% Australian made, owned and produced and focuses on sustainability in every aspect of their production, packaging and final product.

More information:

Image description: Mei is standing behind a table covered in fresh fruits and vegetables alonside jars of jams and chutneys. She is smiling, wearing a colourful headsband and blouse, and has shoulder-length black hair.

VIEW: If this is our last chance, who is our best hope?

This is a guest post from Teigan Margetts, Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. 

With Sydney engulfed in the worst floods in more than a century, not even 18 months out from when the entire state was suffocated by generation-defining bushfires, it’s not hard to start to draw conclusions. Just as scientists predicted, the effects of climate change are beginning to show. Weather events like we’ve seen are set to become even more common, with storms, floods and droughts plaguing us on a more consistent basis. 

Just how much more can we withstand, and should we have to? 

While an intellectual debate still rages on the causes of climate change, so too does debate ensue on the solution. But one thing is for sure: we’re running out of time. So in what – or more importantly- in whom – should we invest to ensure a better future? 

Time is of the essence 

As popularised in David Attenborough’s game-changing documentary, A Life on Our Planet, the world is, indeed, running out of time to address climate change. As the documentary highlights, life on our planet will become extremely more challenging if we don’t do two things, and fast: reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and find ways to draw down more carbon from our atmosphere. Doing these two things won’t solve climate change, as it has already happened, but it will mitigate its most disastrous effects. 

Fortunately, we do have a solution: many in fact. As the incredible documentary 2040: The Regeneration showed, there are many (currently available) solutions to help the world reach our climate change goals. They may not all be easy to execute, sure, but should we be willing, they’re readily available. 

The ‘should we be willing’ is the part that is the most troublesome. Fighting climate change involves, firstly, believing in it, and secondly, making holistic changes to the way we live, which may involve changing our attitudes on a whole bunch of topics. As famous scientist Gus Speth once said: 

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change.”

“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation.”

Who will make real and lasting change? 

There’s no doubt that making the changes required to limit the impacts of climate change will be difficult, and we’re running out of time to do just that. So if not us, then who? 

The answer is right in front of us: our children. While it may be difficult for many in our generation to change, if we educate our children on the issues at hand and help them grow up imagining the world differently, then it will be much easier for them to create it in their favour. 

Between the ages of 3 months and 6 years old, children learn the majority of values that they will hold dear to them for the rest of their lives. Values such as caring for the planet, valuing equality and understanding their impact can – and should – be taught from a young age so the next generation can have the best chance of creating a better world.  

About the expert 

Teigan Margetts is the Co-Founder of Ethicool Books. Ethicool creates beautiful children’s books on topics that matter, including climate change, sustainability, equality, mental health, and many more. All of Ethicool’s books are printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink to minimize their environmental impact. 

Teigan founded Ethicool after the 2020 Australian bushfires. She was terrified that burning summers and flooded winters would become the ‘norm’ for her two young sons, and wanted to start important conversations early about the positive impact we can all make to our planet’s future. 

Image description: Headshot of Teigan smiling at the camera. She has long brown hair, wears a light blue top and is in front of a green blurred background.

ADVICE: We, as parents, must start to role model new behaviour for our kids

The following is a guest post from Natasha Janssens, author of Wonder Woman’s Guide to Money and an award-winning finance broker and money coach.

As a working mum of two, #choosetochallenge is a reminder to me to challenge the outdated social norms that govern the way I view my role in society and what is possible for me. It means challenging the storyline that says it is my responsibility, and mine alone, to make sure that my kids and husbands needs are taken care of.

I choose to challenge the guilt that comes along for the ride, every time I walk out the door to do something just for me – and leave hubby to deal with the kids on his own. I choose to challenge the story that I have to sacrifice my identity and financial independence in order to be deemed a good enough mother and wife.

The fact is that times have changed, and the rules that applied when our mothers and grandmothers were growing up, no longer exist. The reality today is far removed from what we were taught as kids.

While men and boys have been primed to thrive in a capitalist society (having been taught that their primary role is to be the providers), women have in many ways been set up to fail. While boys were told stories depicting the male character as a hero, girls were told they needed to look pretty and wait for prince charming to come to their rescue.

What happens then, when we find ourselves living in a reality that is in direct contrast to the stories we have been told as kids? Just look at the news headlines to find the answers. Women approaching retirement age are often broke and facing homelessness, after having dedicated their lives to caring for their families.

As much as I adore my children, the truth is I cannot afford to sacrifice my financial independence in order to raise them. As much as I love being a mum (some days more so than others), I cannot afford to think of myself as ‘just a mum’. Whether I want to or not, I cannot afford to be a stay-at-home parent and sacrifice my skills and ability to earn my own income. And I cannot afford to not play an active role in my financial future and leave all the big decisions to someone else.

Not only is it not good for me, but it is detrimental to their future. One of the main reasons that the gender gap has been so slow to close is because it is clearly not enough for us to just talk about it. We, as parents, must start to role model new behaviour for our kids. And it all starts with women letting go of the household chores and embracing our entrepreneurial and intellectual abilities. Let’s show future generations that their value lies in more than just their appearance or ability to cook a delicious meal.

About the expert

Natasha is the author of Wonder Woman’s Guide to Money and an award-winning finance broker and money coach. Her passion for education and helping others led her to start Women with Cents – an online community dedicated to empowering Australian women through education. Natasha is on a mission to ensure that all Australian women have access to professional financial advice, regardless of their age, income or circumstances.

Image description: Natasha is sitting on a black, leather lounge chair with her legs crossed. Her feet are on the lounge, with her black high heels on the floor. She wears a pink blazer, white top and blue jeans.

VIEW: Why Australian Pharma Needs to #ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day

The following is a guest post from Elaine Phillips, Business Unit Director – Oncology at BMS Australia.

I’m a girl who was born in the 70s to a very traditional ‘housewife’ family, with a brother who experienced different expectations to myself. Over the course of my 20 year career, my confidence and self-belief has certainly grown. Through finding the right mentors, networking and being open to feedback, my mindset has changed.

While society has certainly progressed and there are more and more opportunities for women each day, I’m adamant there is more to do.

I recently read an article that none of us will see gender parity in our lifetime, and that it’s highly unlikely our children will either1. This statistic really stayed with me.  

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge, and I’m calling on the Australian pharma industry to challenge ourselves through conversation and action.  

We need to strive for more diverse and inclusive working environments that ultimately reflect our diverse customer base, the stakeholders we interact with and our patients.

Stereotypes and barriers are still an obstacle

Ask any woman and I can assure you she will have at least one story of how gender has affected situations in the workplace. 

I remember just four months into my maternity leave, I had a check-in call that left me incredibly overwhelmed at how much had changed already since I’d left. The thought of returning to work and how little I would know made me weak at the knees – my confidence had taken a big hit!

And I’m not alone – The Diversity Council of Australia recently released a report titled ‘In 2020, do we still really need workplace gender equalitywhich highlights that women with children experience a ‘motherhood penalty’. A combination of years not working due to interruptions, part-time employment and unpaid care and work account for 39% of the gender pay gap.2

Women also face significant barriers in trying to enter the STEMM workforce. Despite female academics and researchers making up 43% of the jobs in the science sector, only one fifth of them have senior positions.3 Women are also less likely than men to enter STEMM careers due to stereotypes, non-inclusive workplace cultures and a lack of access to flexible work plans and childcare.

If we want to make wins for our patients, we need diversity

Gender equality in the pharmaceutical industry isn’t just important in driving business performance – it’s integral to the work we output, the medicines we produce and to the patients we care for. From ensuring there is accurate representation in clinical trials to the delivery of new treatments, if we want to make wins for our patients, we need diversity.

So how can Australian pharmaceutical companies rise to the challenge and strive harder for diversity in the workplace? We are all learning and we will make mistakes but having open dialogue is key to making sure that everyone can bring their unique selves to work every day.

In my time at BMS Australia, I can certainly see that diversity and inclusion is a key driver of success.

I have recently taken on a role as an Executive Sponsor of the Bristol Myers Squibb Network of Women (B-NOW), a group which aims to embrace gender diversity in the workplace, celebrate the achievements of BMS women and provide meaningful development opportunities through a range of programs and activities.

One of the standout initiatives we’ve implemented is the Back2Work Buddy Program. This program helps returning parents make the journey back into the workplace by pairing them with an experienced buddy that can share tips, acknowledge challenges and provide reassurance that they are not alone. The BMS Managing My Career course is another tool in the belt of our people – a practical course with hints and tips, supporting women to take a proactive approach to their career development.

I can confidently speak of the powerful impact of these programs, because I know how valuable they would have been as I sat on my four month maternity leave catch-up feeling overwhelmed. By making meaningful contributions to our colleagues on a personal level, we can move towards gender parity and advocate for the advancement of all women in their careers.

Let’s rise to the challenge

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect and to keep the topic of gender diversity and inclusion alive. It is also a time for us to encourage others to focus on creating gender diverse and inclusive working environments that reflect the diverse patients and stakeholders we interact with.

If we want to achieve our goal of gender parity we need to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to move towards each other and have those difficult conversations.

What are you going to #ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day?  


  1. Diversity Council Australia, 2020, In 2020 Do We Still Need Workplace Gender Equality?
  2. Global Gender Gap Report  – 2020 –
  3. Higher Education Research Data, 2016. Accessed from:

About the expert

Elaine Phillips studied a BSc (Hons) in Molecular Biology at Glasgow Caledonian University and has more than 20 years’ experience working in STEMM. She is currently the Oncology Business Unit Director for Bristol Myers Squibb Australia and New Zealand, a global biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines for patients with serious diseases. 

Image description: Headshot of Elaine in front of a grey marble background. Her arms are crossed in front of her, she has short blonde hair, and she wears a blue blazer over a black blouse.

VIEW: Inequalities for men create inequalities for women

The following is a guest post from Deborah O’Ferry, an Australian women’s fiction author and copy writer.

International Women’s Day is an important day internationally.  It looks at the steps still to be taken for equality. But I feel that in Australia, International Women’s Day is too often celebrated with a cup of tea after a free yoga class. It’s the day that the sought-after public microphone is handed over to talk about the gaps that still exist for gender equality, and we shouldn’t be wasting that opportunity to hand out tea.

I’m incredibly proud to live in a country that has come so far in supporting women, but we can do better. Intersectional feminism looks at the overlapping factors that create an individual’s experience of feminism. But one of the many gaps I feel passionate about, and needs propping up, is actually the male experience, and looking at inequalities for men. In particular, inequalities for fathers.

As women make progress, complementary changes are needed to support men as well, to complete the circle.

I never knew the gaps between genders more than when I became a parent. When my role became so domesticated. When people would ask me how the kids were, and my husband how he was going at work.  My self and my career became unseen, and I’d often be told how lucky I was to be able to be at home. Which I was. But for me to be at home, my husband’s role as a father appeared to be seen as financial. And to make those finances, my husband had to not be at home.  Our roles became polarised.

Within partnerships, the beauty and ugly truths of parenthood can often be experienced solo for women. Yet, socially, women are offered a world of Motherhood which is quite different to Fatherhood. There are networks, courses, Mothers Groups, social media pages; filled with professionals and other mums, cheering each other on and offering wisdoms, information, empathy and friendship.

But from day one, a different tone is set for Fatherhood, and they are often on the back foot.

When my husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world, over tears (that only one of us is usually welcome to shed), we fell in love. We had our family, and we could have watched her all night. But, at 8pm, we farewelled each other in the maternity ward, where I was left to work out that first nappy alone and he was sent away from his family.

Day three, he was at work —business as usual. With no permissions to fall apart.

Those early days are the foundations that can set our families up for the years ahead, but they can also set us up to fail— as a family, as a partnership, and as an attitude on roles and expectations.

There are so many fights to be fought for equality, and our position in Australia is exceptionally strong, but change needs to support men as well. There needs more movement in policies and culture socially, medically (family health care) and within workplaces, to catch up to women’s progress, to allow men to support the women in their lives and feel connected to their own families. Looking at feminism with a parental lens, mums of Australia can’t be CEO’s, be financially independent or go out and join a soccer team, if they are not supported and given the room to make those choices. But men, as parents, can’t support women if they are not given the empathy, flexibility or the information to, either.

I believe, that for girls to grow up to be anything, we need to better acknowledge that inequalities for men, create inequalities for women.

About the expert

Deborah O’Ferry is an Australian women’s fiction author and copy writer based on the outskirts of Sydney. She has also worked in the community development sector for many years and is a passionate advocate for women, parents, and mental health. Her writing has been featured on various websites including Kidspot and Babyology. Deborah’s first women’s fiction novel, 500 Miles, has received exceptional reader reviews over its first year of release, and she is working on her second novel.

You can follow Deborah O’Ferry on  Facebook or Instagram.

Image description: Headshot of Deborah from the waist up smiling and looking straight at teh camera. She wears a multi-coloured wrap blouse with short sleeves and has long, curly hair.