In my last year at university in 1993, I had no idea what I wanted to for a career. I was majoring in public policy so a public servant job was probably on the cards. But I didn’t really know what that meant.
While I was an undergraduate, we (from ‘the unit’) would be asked to speak to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who were thinking of going to uni. They would come in groups of about 20 or 30, they’d come to the campus and have a tour and a few of us would talk to them about uni and life there.
In that last year of uni, (Sister) Pat arranged for a couple of us to do a few sessions at All Hallows. I think we may have even got paid for it.
A few months later Lisa’s old school Mt St Pats at Murwillumbah got in touch with to do a few ‘Aboriginal Culture’ sessions. She asked me to go with her and we spent about a month researching and writing (we were young, enthusiastic, and realised early that there was a lot about ‘culture’ that we knew but didn’t know). We spent weeks rehearsing our ‘presentation’. We did it, got good feedback, and the rest is history.
Being Yugambeh, Lisa had approached Aunty Patricia O’Connor from the Yugambeh Museum and the name Nyumba for our little business was born.
Looking back now and in hindsight I think Nyumba was about triage. We spent most of our time talking ‘about’ Aboriginal culture. We weren’t really at a point where we were able to explore racism or power (in those days “whiteness” wasn’t in our vocab).
Our goal was to get good at our offering and to work with as many non-Aboriginal students and teachers as we could, as quickly as we could.
There was little funding for additional programs. We managed to occasionally use what was then referred to as Guest Speaker Program funding, but it was never more than a few hundred dollars for both of us for whole days. Needless to say, our first business was not terribly profitable. But we were young with few expenses.
In 1995, we finished the face-to-face team teaching, Lisa went to Sydney to work with the Catholic Education Office, while I returned to Brisbane to start a family and keep working.
We eventually started writing together and published a number of small publications. Unfortunately, family and work priorities for both of us, too little capital meant we struggled to keep our momentum going. Eventaually I branched off into graphic design work, then social media and digital, and eventually business training and further creative and comms work.
Over the next 18 months, Lisa and I are hoping we can resurrect Nyumba. We have a nice body of content that we can just need to repackage, probably into smaller bite-sized ebooks.
Lisa and I recently caught up today Murwillumbah at the Austral Cafe where we used to sit for hours pouring over lesson plans and resources. It was fun to reminisce and think about how far we’ve come since that time.
And of course, with the new decade approaching, think about how we can work on Nyumba in the future.