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Finding the meeting place: A contemporary Aboriginal business defying stereotypes

Posted 1 year ago in Small business by Sophie Lamell
Posted by Sophie Lamell

Rachael Sarra’s mum is always telling her she has too many trinkets weighing down her keychain. So, she went and made some more. “Mum’s right,” she says, “But I never lose them, do I.” A contemporary Aboriginal artist from Goreng Goreng Country, Rachael is exploring her heritage through a modern lens with sar.ra. Case in point, a versatile enamel keyring that features traditional symbols and looks “rad AF dangling off your handbag.

Feminine, fun and coloured in deep hues of orange, blue and pink, Rachael’s work challenges and explores society’s perception of what Aboriginal art and identity are. “As a culture we’re evolving, we’re innovating and we are so much more than what people perceive. Strong, creative and resilient, our power is in our storytelling.” 

Using her art as a tool to educate and inspire, Rachael’s designs have graced the Australia Post 1967 Referendum 50th anniversary stamp (commemorating the vote to amend the Constitution to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the census), and currently frame the entry of 13 Kmart Australia stores (and counting) symbolising a culturally safe environment. 

Next up is featuring in Tourism Australia’s latest global campaign fronted by none other than Thor himself (aka Chris Hemsworth). For Rachael, it’s all part of unpacking what it means to be an Aboriginal woman today. Something that she continues to explore in her ongoing work with sar.ra – a business that has become a colourful extension of her everyday experiences.

Modern designs inspired by the ancient art of storytelling

Here at Xero, our driving force is helping small businesses like sar.ra to do beautiful business. Which is why we’re proud sponsors of Finders Keepers – a sustainably-minded market that features the work of more than 1200 independent makers and designers from across the country.

Crafting everything from prints to beanies, tote bags and greeting cards in her signature genre-breaking style, sar.ra presents Rachael with the opportunity to share her voice from her very own platform. “I started my business as a bit of a self-care process. Luckily, it naturally transformed into something that people really enjoyed.”

“As Aboriginal people, we’ve always shared and preserved our culture through art and storytelling. Which is why I’m using modern practices like fine art printing and metal pins to bring my heritage into a contemporary space.”

It’s for this reason that every sar.ra product on display at Finders Keepers Brisbane doesn’t just look good, but is also imbued with a deeper cultural meaning. Take the aforementioned keyring. Made up of two powerful symbols, one signifies ‘meeting place’ in representation of where people come together to share knowledge. While the other means ‘person’, and captures the feeling of being a proud Aboriginal person, as well as celebrating the broader community.

Seeking strength and support from the power of community

In line with the symbolism she draws on in her work, when it comes to running her business Rachael has found strength in community. Especially when it comes to taking care of the “sometimes painful” financial side of things. “I learned very quickly that I needed to find myself an accountant who I could actually have a conversation with. Once I did, he recommended Xero, which has been nothing short of life changing.”

“Knowing that the financials are taken care of has made a huge difference. Whether it’s following up on outstanding invoices or keeping on top of the numbers – the manual labour is now out of the picture. Of course running a small business will always be a challenge, but it’s a whole lot easier with Xero around.”

All of which means Rachael has discovered the freedom to focus on being creative. “For me, success is closely linked to purpose. And with sar.ra, that means sharing and celebrating Aboriginal culture and storytelling. If I can wake up and do that every day in a way that supports my lifestyle, then I feel like I’ve made it.”

It’s official: Australian businesses are now required to digitally report their payroll information to the ATO through Single Touch Payroll. Join the team behind Finders Keepers in discovering that STP is as simple as a few clicks with Xero.

Don’t miss the chance to support small business and find yourself a treasure or two at the SS19 Finders Keepers Market.

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