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Alisha blends age-old stories with the latest fashion trend

August 2, 2017

Art speaks to different people in different ways.

For recent Bond University graduate, Alisha Geary, the collection of contemporary Indigenous artworks that surrounded her on campus for the past three years said: ‘Here’s a great idea for a new business.’

“When I started my Bachelor of Business Law degree at Bond, Narelle Urquhart at the Nyombil Indigenous Student Support Centre suggested I volunteer as a guide for the Corrigan Walk Art Tour,” said Alisha.

“My heritage is both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander so I’d been introduced to Indigenous art as a child but it was through guiding the art tours on campus that I really came to understand the history and stories hidden in the paintings.

“Looking at the colour and energy expressed on all these beautiful canvasses, I thought it would be a perfect fit for a new range of active wear.”

The first step in transforming her business dream into reality was to enrol in the Bond Business Accelerator program – a 13-week bootcamp where fledgling business concepts are mentored through the start-up and establishment phase.

At the end of the process, Alisha was awarded $5000 in seed funding and launched Faebella – a luxury women’s active wear brand featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork on a range of gym clothing and accessories.

“I started by using my network of relatives and connections within the community to seek out Indigenous artists to partner with,” said Alisha.

“The artist’s story and the story behind the artwork is included on the tag for each item.

“For instance, Wendy Rix’s designs feature a feather pattern that reflects a story passed down by her mother and grandmother. They told her that when you see a feather lying on the ground, it meant someone was near you from the spirit world. 

“We also have the Clarence Serpent range from Jingalu Melissa Craig which tells the Dreamtime story of how the Clarence River was created.

“In this way, our mission at Faebella is to share the rich culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with a wider audience.”

Establishing Faebella also meant raising capital to fund design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution.

“That is where the Bond Business Accelerator program was really invaluable.

“In addition to introducing me to high level mentors and potential investors, it gave me the practical skills I need to make Faebella a commercial success.”

Having now completed her Bond degree, Alisha is in the enviable position of having an established business to grow and develop – a seed that was planted when Alisha received the 2013 Bond University Indigenous Community Excellence Scholarship.

“Alisha is one of 67 promising young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to have been awarded a Bond University Indigenous Scholarship over the past five years,” said Pro Vice-Chancellor, Pathways and Partnerships, Catherine O’Sullivan.

“This represents an investment of more than $4 million in Indigenous tertiary education, funded by the University and its corporate partners.

“Bond’s commitment to give more Indigenous students access to high quality private tertiary education was formalised as part of our Strategic Plan in 2012 and the results we are seeing now are just outstanding.

“Our Indigenous enrolments have doubled since 2012; our retention rate sits at 96% (compared to the Australian average national Indigenous retention rate of 71%); and, in February this year, Alisha was part of a Graduation Ceremony that included our largest-ever cohort of Indigenous students.”

The long-term impact of Bond’s success in Indigenous education is that each one of these students serves as an inspiration to their family, friends and community.

“I am the first person in my family to attend university, so receiving the Indigenous Scholarship to study at Bond University really changed my life," said Alisha.

"Having grown up between Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands, coming to Bond on the Gold Coast was such a significant and exciting change for me. I have made so many international friends with such diverse cultural backgrounds that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet elsewhere.”