BLOG IMAGE Rebecca Wessells

Female Leader, Rebecca Wessels, Managing Director Ochre Dawn

Because of Her, We Can Ebook Female Leader, Rebecca Wessels said, “Sharing our culture through Indigenous artwork on a global stage is exciting for both the growth of Ochre Dawn and for the impact on our artists, their families, communities and our incredible culture.”

You had an incredible leadership career in IT and travelled the world. Tell us about your corporate career achievements and what motivated your transition.

I was sitting at my desk and wondering about the bright spark who thought it would be a good idea to send me, a young woman, to a place that I had never been before and knew no one, to manage an office of 12 older men and client IT projects totalling tens of millions of revenue per annum.

That bright spark believed in me and championed for me over the years. They introduced me to other local tech female business leaders who provided immense support when I felt out of my depth. I learnt very quickly that it helps to make friends with people who are experts in areas that are your weaknesses.

During those years, I worked with clients in the Defence Industry and Federal Government, and managed our team through the highs and lows of national projects and a company merger. This provided me with invaluable skills in problem solving, customer relationships and team-building. It instilled in me a love of leadership and business. After a health scare, I realised that I couldn’t take the great income and overseas trips with me if the doctor’s news was worse case scenario. I was living a good life but not a great one, because I was not following my passions.

It was while studying, working three jobs and volunteering as a youth worker mentoring children from refugee experiences that you started learning about your own culture and started Ochre Dawn. Tell us why you started your business.

The idea to start my business came 12 years  ago during my revelation that a career in IT wasn’t for me. A few friends worked for non-profit organisations and needed promotional merchandise. I registered my ABN and business name overnight in order to help them source products and ran the business for the first few years while in IT, then studying and then also during my career change into youth work.

It was after getting married and when my daughter was due to be born that I had the naive notion that I could easily run a business full-time with a newborn in tow. As the saying goes “where focus goes, energy flows.” So, although it was naturally a challenge at times, I was excited to discover that the business was growing and had real potential for a strong future.

Ochre Dawn quickly grew from a supplier of promotional products and corporate gifts, to offering services such as graphic design and email branding, and in recent years has expanded into customised Indigenous artwork for commercial purposes. Ochre Dawn’s focus on branding and marketing, along with my own Aboriginal heritage, means that we are natural storytellers. It is such a joy to share our clients’ stories through the captivating elements of Indigenous artwork.

This has also ignited my passion and commitment to providing better opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including more sustainable income and the ethical use of their artwork.

Your business is now 5 years old and has grown from strength to strength. What’s your vision for Ochre Dawn?

After 12 years  in business, five of which has been full-time, I have great plans for the future of Ochre Dawn, but also am excited for the unplanned adventures that lie ahead. My vision for Ochre Dawn is global. I don’t dream small. Having worked in the refugee sector previously and knowing that for centuries Aboriginal people have traded internationally, I’m keen to explore further opportunities to export and import in ethical and meaningful ways.

The expansion of our team is also important, primarily in relation to our commitment to being a workplace that embraces diversity and especially Indigenous employment opportunities. Sharing our culture through Indigenous artwork on a global stage is exciting for both the growth of Ochre Dawn and for the impact on our artists, their families, communities and our incredible culture.

What’s important for the Australian business community to understand about working ethically with Aboriginal Artists?

At Ochre Dawn, we advocate on behalf of the dozens of Indigenous artists registered with us, as well as the broader arts sector. We also educate our corporate and government clients on the protocols for engaging Indigenous artists and welcome conversations with organisations that are unsure how to engage artists ethically and meaningfully.

There are a number of comprehensive resources available on these protocols, however some key points to note include: pay the artist appropriately. For example, a professional fee is paid relevant to the work completed, not token prizes or small material items in lieu of payment, and certainly not just the notion of exposure. Avoid free pitch scenarios such as artwork competitions. Recognise the artist in the final work, including their name, language groups, ideally their bio and a story about the artwork. Fake Indigenous artwork is too common these days and it is our business mission to make it a thing of the past and see authentic works take centre stage.

 

Di Farmer MPThe National Because of Her, We Can Ebook is a tribute to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Right across Australia there are endless examples of strong and successful Indigenous women leading the way. This Ebook shines a light on 12 of our country’s Indigenous women, including four Queenslanders, who are leading and succeeding in business. These women show the strength, resilience, hard work, creativity and intelligence that are crucial elements in business success. Their stories, journeys and the lessons learned are as diverse as they are, but all offer inspirational advice.

The Honourable Di Farmer MP

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence

Queensland Government

 

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Photo credit: Colleen Strangways of Nharla Photography

Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Founder

Mother, wife, daughter, determined dreamer. Lover of books. Background in Human Resources leadership in global organisations.