Connecting all Australians to Each Other

LISTEN TO KAYLA'S SONGLINE: 

 

Kayla Cartledge

Kayla Cartledge is the founder, driver, mastermind and cultural inspiration behind Our Dilly Bag, and the umbrella brand: Our Songlines.

 

 

 


Always posed, like presenting to the world a united front for everything Indigenous-Australian, she is more than the founder of a start-up. She embodies innovative-leadership, a structure so flat to her everyone works in parallel. With forward-thinking ideas in every pocket (like spare change) she walks into every situation with an open heart and an open mind — a mirror of what she wants to see in the world; without prejudice and segregation.  


Kayla never describes any one project as a destination, but always an ongoing journey. With weaving paths, undiscovered lands and most importantly, the progressive and evergreen community that she cultivates and brings along the way.

Working with First Nations people and allies across local and state government, as well as mentoring and driving social programs among young Indigenous Australians, Kayla has committed herself to an all-inclusive reconciliation within Australia.

Although we know she will be cringing in discomfort reading this, we hang off every word she says, and cannot wait to share more stories with you.


I’m Kayla. I am a proud Gurindji woman from the Northern Territory, and I live on Bunurong land. My people, the Gurindji people, are activists. We’re known for the Wave Hill Walk-Off, which had Vincent Lingiari — he should be an Australian historian. Vincent Linguari lead people on the Walk-Off, which contributed to Gough Whitlam giving land back to our Country.

Vincent was working on a farm, not getting paid. They were slaves, which is something that is running through my veins. This has always pushed me to challenge social injustice and to always stand up for people who haven’t had a fair go or who aren’t seen as equal.

I am really passionate about promoting equality and social justice, and everything I can do to try and level those playing fields — creating equality, where we can truly reconcile in Australia.

 

The idea of Our Dilly Bag comes from my original venutre: Our Songlines. This brand is a progressive and culturally immersive Indigenous platform, connecting people to Indigenous businesses and places of significance, so that people know exactly what land is around them. The motivation for the start-ups, is that I was the only Indigenous kid at my school and I was always so torn about what I was being taught and treated. I saw all the time the values that we've forgotten. Being at school and told one story, and then being at home and being told another. 

There is a huge gap in Australia, where we don't know our history — it's not taught in schools, it's hidden away. As a result, we lose languages every day and this tears down our people. This systemic issue promotes intergenerational trauma, which has affected us for generations. 


We have such a proud history. We were the first inventors in the world. We were the first engineers in the world. We have the oldest living history in the world, and that's something that we should be promoting and should be celebrating as a nation, but we prefer to hide it, pretending it doesn't exist — pretending Australia started when Captain Cook arrived. 
That's something that I feel really strongly about changing.

I went through school as the only Indigenous kid, apart from my sister. It was really difficult to try connecting with and finding people with the same values as me. I ended up having a really strong group of allies, which motivated me to really harness my allies. The willingness and the goodwill of all allies is really important to me. I take advantage of this to help teach Indigenous culture and history. The road to reconilciation is together and that's why I want to keep building up a base of people who can help make change. We are (Indigenous people) 3% of the population in Australia — that’s not enough people alone to make a shift.

The Indigenous population is not enough to lobby and protest to make constitutional change. 

I believe and see everyday that people are really looking to help, looking to make these changes. That's what Our Dilly Bag is all about. It's about educating people in a really easy to understand way. It's about showing people Indigenous brands and products that are out there. These brands harness values of: reciprocity, respect, kindness, caring for nature and caring for the community — thats what its all about. I want the Our Dilly Bag brand to encourage people to constantly put themselves out there, challenge their beliefs and the way they live. Picking up rubbish in local bushland, getting involved in planting native plants in reserves, attending a smoking ceremony or cultural activity in your local area; understanding what it is, what it means being welcomed onto a country and being protected by the ancestors and the spirits around you. Having a true sense of belonging, rather than dominating the country and society. 

When Captain Cook first came, Aboriginal people were told to stop living their culture. Stop everything they had come to know. They weren't allowed to use their bush fruits, bush medicines, or any native and natural products that helped them survive, or they would get jailed, or killed. Instead, when the Aboriginal people needed to heal, British Colonists would give them alcohol. This was encouraged to be used to mend or ‘feel better’. They forced us into using alcohol as a way of treating our abandonment. This was the beginning of our intergenerational trauma. It’s built into us, ingrained, being continually passed down. 
 
 

Our current Prime Minister recently said there was ‘no slavery’ in Australia. Even though we have all seen the pictures of our warriors with chains around their necks, looking malnourished and exhausted. That was through willingness? It's so ridiculous that that comes from the top and it's consistently coming from the top.

 

This kind of consistent narrative played from the media to the public really motivates me to close the gap in society. Really help Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians connect and find information about our real history. It is close to my heart that all people experience culture, learn to appreciate our history and realise that we have over 240 language groups and/or mobs within Australia. This is incredible, because every mob acts differently, has their own rituals, spirituality and different laws. It is fascinating getting to know where you live and what country it belongs to.


I wanted to change the narrative and positively challenge people. When there's heated conversations, people revert back to Indigenous stereotypes of what an Aboriginal person is and was. This is generally based on our abusive past of alcoholism and violence from British Colonists. So it's really about creating social change, putting community and nature first. It's about building up Indigenous economy and teaching people about how they can implement Indigenous products and services into everyday life. It doesn't need to be a special occasion to get involved.
There is so much that you may already do and so many things you can implement, that would be little to no change in your life. It is just a matter of changing perspectives on brands and where to make purchases. It could be as simple as walking into bushland or a beach near you. Learn about the flora and fauna around you, what does it mean, how can you use it, what can you tell by watching it?