As we celebrate business innovation and excellence in our local community, today we go behind the scenes and meet Rosebud local, Kayla Cartledge, Founder and CEO of Our Songlines.

Our Songlines is a 100% Indigenous owned and Indigenous led organisation passionate about making Indigenous culture accessible to anyone in a supportive safe environment. Kayla, a proud Gurindji Woman was born on Larrakia land, up north in the Darwin region. She is now based on the Mornington Peninsula, Bunurong / Boon Wurrong land.

After many years working in cultural auditing within the youth sector, Kayla saw continued gaps for local Indigenous youth to access education and connection to the culture around them. With this is mind Kayla changed paths – her ambition to create a safe place for people to tell their stories, ask questions and support First Nations businesses. Motivated to show Australia what First Nation’s Culture really is, she founded Our Songlines, a business to help build wider understanding of Indigenous culture and reconciliation.

Kayla began by building an interactive Google Maps platform, identifying First Nation language groups, culturally significant sites, gathering places, tours or experiences and Aboriginal run businesses to educate and connect community.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can hear see and learn as they explore the map and symbols, encouraging connection to businesses and Indigenous history. Ever evolving, this organic resource continues to grow, and indigenous business owners now contact Kayla to be included and her network share new significant sites (with permission from Traditional Custodians) to add as they explore.

In addition to the interactive platform, Our Songlines focuses on mindful activities that encourage cultural learnings in safe creative ways. The team connects with their ancestral knowledge and provides activities based on existing knowledge, age, gender and interests. To encourage youth on their future options and pathways, Kayla offers workshops and Mentor Programs that provide one-on-one and group support with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Like many businesses, when COVID19 struck, plans were put on hold.  Local partnerships with Aboriginal businesses, tours and accommodation providers were paused. Classes and workshops needed to be reimagined. Kayla shared, “The global pandemic has shown us we can’t sit in one place comfortably. We need to reimagine the way we connect and create new ways of working.  I have used my time working from home or hot desks as a new opportunity to hear different stories. I had to use my skills to create virtual versions of the classes – all still working to connect allies to culture. I knew I had to continue to educate in a soft and safe space, just in new ways.”

Kayla explains ‘ally’ as a term used for active supporters of a cause or people, in this case they would be people who are actively involved in advocating for change of inequality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Mentor programs continued through phone calls, and walks when permitted, to keep the youth in the program focused on the need for agility and connected to community. Working with schools, Victoria Police, Head Space and Nairm Marr Djambana, the Gathering Place, the collective goal continued to look out for those who might slip through the cracks and keep them connected.

Our Songlines is an accredited Wayapa Wuurk practitioner. ‘Wayapa’ is an earth connection practice that is based on ancient Indigenous wisdom that focuses on taking care of the Earth as the starting point for creating earth, mind, body spirit well-being. Through lockdowns, the ideologies of Wayapa became even more essential for many, with Kayla able to teach an ability to connect to nature wherever you are, whatever the restrictions."

*Images courtesy of Our Songlines

In January of 2021, Kayla set her sights on a new challenge – an event. Our Survival Day was launched at the Briars Mount Martha.

What was first imagined by Kayla as a small gathering of “open minded allies and her mob”, with the help of  her exceptional team of volunteers,  they created an event showcasing First Nations musical performances, culturally safe spaces and cultural workshops for a crowd of four hundred. Pitched as an all-inclusive family event to promote strength, passion, and community - and turned around in only six weeks - it was a feat of excellence.

The event was submitted by one of the volunteers to the ‘Community category’ of the 2021 Helping Achieve Reconciliation Together (HART) awards. Now in their 8th year, The HART Awards recognise initiatives by local governments and community organisations that advance and promote reconciliation. The first-time event impressively won the category.

“When we became a finalist, I was excited to see where it might lead, perhaps sponsorship with open minded allies that would allow us to build on what we achieved.  I would love to coordinate a bus service that would enable more our elders to attend.”

To see, listen and learn more about the local Indigenous businesses and sites of cultural interest on Bunurong / Boon Wurrong land, take a look at the Our Songlines interactive map.

Kayla is always seeking 'to connect allies to culture to make change'.  Every project taken on by this remarkable innovator is driven by the goal of reconciliation. Everything starts here.

Stay, play and explore local to support local– you might be surprised what you rediscover in your own backyard. Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Support Local campaign urges community to support local. Connect with local businesses on our Support Local Business Directory

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