From the kindness of strangers donating pre-loved clothing to strong Aboriginal women working hard to create a better place to raise their families, the power of & is at the heart of an op shop destined for Kalumburu.
You could be forgiven for thinking some of our North West’s remote communities are less than desireable due to negative media portrayals. But bubbling under the surface of Kalumburu, in the northern most tip of WA, is a spring of hope ready to wash away these preconceptions.
Searching for ways to make Kalumburu safer and more prosperous, Tramalla Women’s Circle leader and Kalumburu elder Doreen Unghango has big dreams for the future of her town, her family and the larger community.
“We have dreams that we want to make happen, make lives change for children and teenagers in the community,” Doreen said. “As strong women, we want to learn how to do business and teach our young people this.”
Remote Aboriginal Australians have been identified as the most economically marginalised group in Australia with various barriers to employment such as social issues like domestic violence and drug addiction, mental health issues and simply lack of job opportunities. Not-for-profit organisation Enterprise Learning Projects recognised these barriers could be overcome with some support to build their knowledge, skills and confidence.
With limited funding available but plenty of spirit, the concept of a pop up op shop came to life. ELP facilitator Clare Wood said the concept works on many levels as it helps the community.
“The op shop will do much more than just fulfil the community’s need for clothing,” Clare said. “Profits generated from the op shop will also provide seed funding to explore other small business ideas.”
From the clothing sales, the Aboriginal women have dreams of setting up small businesses that ring true to their cultural identity such as bush medicine products, clapping sticks and soap.
“We like to be independent, do our own business, do our own op shop and secondhand clothes,” Doreen said. “Some young girls are already cooking and selling food, making bags too.”
ELP has worked with various socially minded businesses to orchestrate the logistics (such as Kennard’s Self Storage who stores the clothes and Toll transports them up north), while everyday Australians are currently donating thousands of pre-loved clothes to various drop off points. Once the clothing arrives in Kalumburu, the local women run the store themselves, learning business and administrative skills in the process, while raising much needed funds for their own future micro enterprises.
As the Kalumburu op shop takes formation with clothing drives now in full swing, ELP has just completed a successful drive for the Northern Territory’s Jilkmanggen community in March. ELP Coordinator Tanya Edgerton said the outpouring of generosity from individuals and corporations for the op shop project was overwhelming.
“Initially it was a small drive, partnering with Toni & Guy Bondi Beach in the aim of collecting some garments and other resources to fund a pop-up second hand store,” Tanya said. “But within 48 hours, we had over 25,000 shares and pledges of clothing, material and sewing machines coming in from all over Australia".
Due to its success, the Jilkmanggen clothing collection has flowed on to assist the Kalumburu drive.
“It’s been such a beautiful, unexpected response made possible by the people of Australia, a true showcase of the strength in unity,” Tanya said. “With such a large volume of goods, we will be able to support not only the women of the Jilkminggan community to begin their journey of enterprise learning, but surrounding communities as well.”
The clothing donations are currently being sourced in the Margaret River region following a successful drive in Perth, while a GoFundMe campaign is generating dollars for a sea container that will be used to host the pop up op shop.
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