Billie and I were very lucky to attend the B Corporation Champions Retreat in Alice Springs from 2nd – 5th May 2017. We were SO excited, neither of us had visited the red centre before and both revelled in the opportunity to learn about BCorps and how business is being used as a force for good!
As it was Billie’s big 3 0 whilst we were away, it was decided that we would extend our trip and head to Uluru for a couple of days. We flew to Ayers Rock on Qantas via Alice Springs. The flight from Melbourne to Alice Springs was a very pleasant 2-and-a-half-hour flight. Luckily we flew business class and definitely enjoyed the extra room as well as the very friendly service provided by the Qantas onboard staff and given we couldn’t shut up the entire way over…it was probably good the staff were lovely! The flight from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock was about 45 mins, it was a smooth flight….hot tip for you all - try and be seated on the left-hand side of the plane on the way over and right hand side on the way back – that way you get an amazing view of Uluru from above!
Our incredible Reho family treated Billie to the Field of Light dinner under the stars and right next to spectacular Uluru. Not only did we have an amazing buffet meal, get to see views of Uluru at sunset and experience the Field of Light installation we also got a crash course on astronomy….did you know that there are more stars in the sky then there are grains of sand on earth??? Well, we didn’t either and we are both still mind blown about this huge fact!!!!
Ok, now to the Field of Light. Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ is Bruce Munro’s largest installation so far and as the sun sets and the sky turns from purple and pink to midnight blue the solar powered lights slowly come to life. Just picture 50, 000 frosted lights (yes, that is right FIFTY THOUSAND LIGHTS) covering an area as big as seven football fields lighting up and blanketing the beautiful desert area underneath Uluru…..pathways encouraged us to explore the lights covering the land, with the milky way twinkling from above and Uluru in the background. We tried so hard to capture it on film for you….but we failed…you will have to go and see this amazing art piece by Bruce Munro if for yourself! The installation will only be in place until March 2018, so be quick before the lights go out!
While we were in Ayers Rock, we stayed at the Sails in the Desert at the Ayers Rock Resort, a nice five-star hotel that is not very far from the rock itself. Sails in the Desert is a part of Voyages who own three other hotels in the area. Well actually, other than Longitude 313, the only other hotels in the area!! Staying at the resort meant we could go and dine or shop at any of the four hotels or the Town Square and chargeback the cost of everything. except the Post Office, IGA and Newsagent, to our room! Another fantastic thing they offer is free daily activities. There are plenty to choose from the bush walking tour (which was brilliant) to astronomy lessons and even bush tucker cooking classes.
We chose to stay at Ayers Rock Resort because of their policies surrounding Indigenous training and employment and the recent installation of solar panels that gives at least 25% of the resorts power…very ethical of us!
Check in was smooth and we arrived at our room to find one King size bed, so we promptly took pics of our view of Uluru and changed rooms. Room two was nice, roomy and had twin beds so we were happy and went off to explore a little. Back in the room we settled in for the night...chatting till the wee hours, well actually until I screamed and told Billie to get off her bed as there was a massive spider crawling towards her!! Mortine can in hand, we swiftly dealt with that and eventually fell asleep….not so ethical but comforting…
At 1:45am I awoke to a rustling sound....panicked I woke Billie up...she was not happy and said “I can’t hear anything you crazy lady”! Of course, I got up to investigate…I then saw something run past me screamed and jumped back on the bed...she still thought I was crazy and now she couldn't fall back to sleep. At 2:45am she wakes me up....”OMG NIKKI CAN YOU HEAR THAT?!?!?!”
We called the front desk and a nice little man came to our room, gloves and a little supply package in hand, to investigate…as he is investigating he and I both saw Rodney the Rat run into a crevice.
OMG NOW NO ONE IS SLEEPING!!!
With the hotel at full capacity and the realisation that our furry roommate came from outside we accepted his offer of a trap that had peanut butter in it and we both try to go back to sleep….at 6am I hear the trap go off....seriously…the peanut butter is gone…but there is no one in the trap….thank goodness it didn’t wake Billie up.
We finally get up and try to forget the hell of the evening before. We are just about to leave the room and Billie screams....”OMG THERES ANOTHER ONE!!!!”
There was me standing on the bed screaming. Billie calling reception from a remote corner of the room and two maintenance men trying to get in cause neither of us were brave enough to undeadlock the door.…eventually I threw a towel on Minnie Mouse, bolted to the door and let our two saviours in.
We, CLEARLY, moved rooms...again...our new room had a pool view on the third floor, we received a nice apology from the manager….hot tip, perhaps try and stay on level three of the hotel so that you don’t get unexpected furry guests in your room waking you up during the night.
That morning after the fun we were charged and ready to go! We met with Leroy who took us on a walk of the grounds and showed us the plants and insects our indigenous Australians lived on prior to our arrival. It was fascinating, we learnt things neither of us knew and were ready for more! After our walk we thought we would head to the Uluru look-out in front of the resort, about a five minute hike…it’s really a walk….where you get to see Uluru in all its stunning glory! Definitely worth the walk…or as I would say the hour hike!
We spent two nights at Sails before we flew back to Alice Springs for our conference. We arrived in Alice Springs and found a cab to take us to the DoubleTree by Hilton. A nice hotel, very large, with a great mountain views and close to town. We arrived on the day of Billie’s birthday and we were keen to meet our fellow BCorp members!
So, you may be asking what on EARTH is a Certified BCorp??? Created in the US about 10 years ago, BCorps are companies that must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency in order to be certified. They represent an emerging group of companies that are using the power of business to create a positive impact on the world. Together, B Corps redefine success in business by competing not to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world. The theme of the Champions Retreat 2017 was ‘What can we do together that we can’t do apart?’ and we were pretty excited to be involved in figuring that out!
After checking in, settling….and checking the crevices for extra guests….we went downstairs to have dinner with our BCorp buddies…..a frenzy of meeting new people finding the ones you mesh with the most and switching our brains into big picture mode….there was no chatting about shoes, bags or the Kardashians at this dinner!!! It was definitely a sign of what was to come…and we were hooked!
This first day of the conference was for us, the most inspiring. We spent the day with the Aranda people, their spirituality and traditions focus on the landscape and connecting with the earth with the head, heart and gut. Our first stop was at the Tjanpi Desert Weavers gallery a social enterprise of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankynytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council that was created to enable women in remote areas to earn their own income. Everything is named for the person who made it, and the women are paid when they drop off their beautiful artwork. From baskets to animals these items are made by women young and old and are part of a movement that celebrates life, creativity and country.
We heard of their battles with alcohol, petrol and domestic violence and how the council is lobbying the government for assistance. We heard that BP had created a petrol that had no fumes and when the government replaced regular fuel with this in the area the petrol sniffing epidemic was pretty much eradicated and with it the domestic violence issue was minimised. This was until the price of the petrol got too much and they changed it back to the regular petrol. Now they are fighting petrol sniffing again and are desperately trying to create a solution.
This was the first stop……
Our next stop was Tangentyere Artists Gallery, another Aboriginal owned Art Centre providing art training and workshops to more than 400 indigenous artists in Alice Springs. The centre gives our indigenous people the space to express themselves and their cultural values. With many horrible stories coming out of the difficult conditions these people live in, it surprised us that such beautiful stories were told in their artwork.
After a short lunch break we went onto our last and most thought provoking, heart breaking and inspiring of them all.
Akeyulerre Healing Centre has been created by a group of young Arrernte women with the help of their Elders. centre is a place where they can preserve, practice and enjoy the indigenous Arrernte culture and provides a place where our indigenous Australians can be employed and get the training and skills required to run their own business.
By nature, the Arrernte women are the collectors of plants and the creators of healing bush rubs and they provide these items to the community for free – the products are also sold online and at the centre to the public. They also share their cultural knowledge and traditions from here too. The products created at Akeyulerre are Interrentye Traditional Healing Products, Interrentye is an old Arrernte word meaning knitting together or healing of the body.
When we arrived at Akeyulerre we were asked to take part in a traditional smoking ceremony to cleanse us and welcome us into their space. We then sat in a large circle while we learnt of the plans this social enterprise had for itself and the community. We heard the trials they had getting funding and how they would regularly refuse funding due to the parameters and outcomes the government asked for. Our government is asking our indigenous people to change, to assimilate to the ‘white mobs’ way of life. We are not asking them what they need, we are not offering to merge our cultures, we are not celebrating their natural desire to teach their children their language, traditions, culture and way of life the way our parents and yours did….we are telling them that they should be like us.
Living in Melbourne Billie and I agreed we are so disconnected from their reality. We thought the government gave our indigenous Australians money and they spent it on what they needed….but this is not the case. We treat our indigenous Australians like a dirty secret. Pushing them to the side and hoping they go away, throwing money at them that they don’t want, need or their traditions don’t allow them to do what we require them to do with it. They are not ‘white mob’ and they don’t want to be, and we shouldn’t be asking them to be.
We learnt so much from them, our Australian culture could be so much richer for their knowledge – what they can do with a eucalyptus leaf would blow your mind!!!
Day two of the conference was far more collaborative. After a little more networking the night before, we felt comfortable to just drop in and give our feedback on any topic that was offered up for discussion.
From creating an Indigenous Social Enterprise project to B-Marketing, B-Talent Sharing and a B The Change festival everyone had something they wanted to create, plan and action. Billie and I had a great time being ‘bees’ and adding our little bit or opinion to the groups we felt most passionate about, we left those groups with tasks to refine and implement the brilliant ideas that came to the fore.
There was also a B Market where all the BCorps had the opportunity to show and sell their wares….and we discovered some we didn’t even know about! I managed to add a few new suppliers to our Procurement list for the office!
Dinner that night was at the Earth Sanctuary – a fully sustainable function centre that teaches eco-tourism and sustainability to students and grownups alike! Our dinner was delicious – all grown or harvested locally. Solar generators powered our lights and heaters and we were treated to another wonderful astrology lesson!
More networking and a bus drive home…ready to face an early start for the last day of the conference!
Day three of our conference started with breakfast – outside….have you ever been to the Top End in May? They days are stunning – just the right temperature for whatever you want to do….the mornings and nights however….well let’s just say bring a beanie, scarf, a warm jacket and layers…lots of layers!!!
Anyway, we braved the cold and listened as we were instructed to get together with our groups and finalise the ideas and perhaps give out some jobs to ensure that things get actioned. We were thrilled to throw our hats into the ring….
Then we checked out and got on the bus and headed to the airport, settled into the Business Class lounge with some of our new found friends….we were chatting so much in there we almost missed our flight home!!!
Comfy in our seats on the plane Billie and I debriefed on the past week. What a whirlwind week, so many experiences, so many new people in our lives and perhaps the beginnings of a new purpose for us both too.
The Northern Territory is a must for those of you who always say that you should explore a little more of our country….there is nothing that represents who we are like our Top End.
We look forward to sharing our new ideas and purpose with our workmates, family, friends…well basically anyone that will listen….so look out!