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Hand-made beauty products changing women's lives in remote Indigenous community

Women working at Bush Medijina Source: Supplied / Bush Medijina

With a hand-made beauty care products business, women of Groote Eylandt are tackling much more serious issues than just rough skin. The all-women social enterprise is empowering women suffering from the effects of poor health, domestic violence and unemployment, and helping them take control of their lives.

A group of women in the Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory is tackling issues such as domestic violence, poor health, unemployment and lack of education through an Indigenous-founded all-women social enterprise making beauty products.

Bush Medijina, an independent social enterprise, run out of four shipping containers converted into the office, production area and the storage unit, isn't just any other business. It supports local women, culture and community on the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

Bush Medijina
Supplied / Bush Medijina

Jasmine Hastings, Leadership and Values officer at Bush Medijina, says it provides women with a safe space to share their experiences. 

"It's very small at this stage. But the ladies here make these beautiful products, we enjoy each other's company. The ladies are able to feel they can be themselves and can share their stories with each other - the good and the bad," Ms Hastings told NITV Radio.

"There's a lot of complex issues here on Groote but they are also similar issues that the Indigenous people are facing across Australia. Things can be very tough for the ladies, they have to be very strong to support their families."

Ms Hastings says the biggest worry is about the youth in the community and their education and Bush Medijina runs programs to offer work experience to schoolgirls.  

Bush Medijina
Supplied / Bush Medijina

Using the knowledge of their ancestors and combining it with modern technology, the women are producing hand-made beauty products, earning money and keeping their culture alive.

Ms Hastings says these skills have been passed from Indigenous mothers to their daughters for many generations and people have used the herbs that grow on Groote Eylandt, such as small leaf paperback, wattle leaves, the sandalwood tree leaves, wild peach and cinnamon tree leaves. 

"Bush medicine plants have always been there, the recipe has always been there. We have just put our little twist on it with using modern products," she says. 

The enterprise employs 17 local women who work four days a week from 8:30am to 2:30 in the afternoon and produce beauty products such as body balm, lip balm, hair care products with more products to be rolled out this year.

Ms Hastings says the common dream of these women is turn Bush Medijina into a completely sustainable business and expand it globally.

The program regularly initiates activities to educate Warningakalina women and their families on a range of health, wellbeing and community leadership topics.

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