My name is Corina. I own Amber Days, an ethical and sustainable childrenswear label. We’re 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and we collaborate with Aboriginal artists to tell stories about our culture.
I’m a Yorta Yorta woman, my family is from Echuca. My culture is a huge part of who I am. I’m also a mum to a three-and-a-half year old daughter, she’s pretty much my everything. She’s my little assistant – yesterday she was designing a dress!
As Aboriginal people, I feel like we are born political. You have no choice. One of my biggest passions is to use the business for good, especially around the barriers that we face as women of colour. From a very young age, I’ve been asking how we can fix these inequalities and these injustices and feeling the trauma that’s been passed down the generations. I felt that the narrative about my future meant I couldn’t have a successful life, and that as an Aboriginal woman, my future was destined to be a stay-at-home mum, controlled by our government and government payments and to not have my own freedom and follow my dreams.
I did a lot of searching with a lot of inspirational mentors, trying to really work on what it meant to be an Aboriginal woman and reconnecting to the strength and the resilience and all the beautiful parts about my culture. I wanted to shift the narrative – and not just shift it, but also push against it. We have all of these amazing qualities and we’re creative and we’re strong.
That strength has really driven me so much in my business. It’s an amazing way of not being controlled by a Western system that does not align with my values and my culture. It’s a really empowering way to be able to live to your authentic self. The term ‘walk in two worlds’ is easier said than done, but I get to choose the parts of the world that I want to be walking in. It’s strengthened my identity as an aborignal woman immensely.
There are lots of reasons why the traditional nine-to-five model doesn’t fit an Aboriginal woman. There’s deep-seated racism in all of our systems and I’ve faced it in all of my workplaces. But, in particular, being a full-time single mum and working at the same time is almost impossible if I want to actually support my child. I realise that I can’t fully protect my daughter from intergenerational trauma, but I can build her to be the most resilient person that I can and give her the best life that she can live, if I am there. It was really important to have the choice to be able to provide her with that. I want her to feel safe and supported, to celebrate our culture and be proud of who she is. It was really important that I was there for her and the traditional system doesn’t work for that.
I took my daughter to work with me when she was six months’ old. She was surrounded by amazing strong activists from a young age, but it was extremely exhausting and I felt guilty. I could see that she needed slowness. I quit and decided to do Amber Days full time. It gives me full flexibility. I didn’t know how to launch a business and I was nervous. My mum was like ‘have you heard of Global Sisters?’ We went from there.
Lisa at Global Sisters gave me some pro bono work around being financially ready for investment. I needed capital to be able to scale and she spent numerous hours with me helping me to understand my financials. That was a game-changer. It’s changed my business and I’m forever grateful.
Financial independence is incredibly important, I’d be lying if I said I was there right now. Building a business, particularly in the fashion industry, is a difficult, long process. Just being able to be in control of where you’re heading, how much work you want to put in, how much money you want to earn – the aim is to one day be able to make a living off my business and to parent with choice.
Being an Aboriginal person in business is incredible. We’re creating our own idea of business and what it means to us. There’s this amazing, growing community of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and their focus isn’t so individualistic, it’s on how that business supports a family, supports a community, supports a nation. It’s incredibly heartwarming.
Amber Days is about so much more than a transaction, it’s about impacts on the environment, how we’re bettering our country, strengthening our voices, revamping our culture and our language. I really hope our clothing brings strength and connection to young people, too.