NSWICC Indigenous Business Accelerator Program: ‘Speaking in Colour’

In 2016 the NSWICC created the Indigenous Business Accelerator Program to ensure those with the aspirations to take their enterprise to the next level will have the tools and mentors to achieve it.

At our recent Seminar Series event on Agile Procurement and Governance, we invited Cherie Johnson from Speaking in Colour, one of ten businesses to progress through the Indigenous Business Accelerator Program, to do a traditional Acknowledgement of Country and to facilitate our Seminar session.

Cherie Johnson is a Weilwun woman from Northern NSW, who resides in Newcastle, and participates as an active member of the Awabakal Community. Daughter of Dawn Conlan, Granddaughter of Rachel Darcy, and great granddaughter of Charlotte Wright, Cherie is Founder and Owner of Speaking in Colour. On leave from her Visual Arts and Photography teaching position, Cherie is currently a PHd candidate and casual lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Aboriginal Culture and Education.

Speaking in Colour is a leading provider of Aboriginal education and training in the Newcastle and Hunter region of NSW. The aim of the business is to develop education and creative resources that embrace Aboriginal perspectives and foster reconciliation. Speaking in Colour has built a solid reputation for developing innovative workshops and education kits which are used by regional art galleries and schools as part of their education programs. The business also provides staff training and development in Aboriginal education techniques, corporate training programs and consultation services, as well as design services for annual reports, logos and public art commissions. Their range of innovative workshops bring Aboriginal perspectives into the classroom or workplace through Aboriginal dance, weaving, art appreciation, tools and artefacts, possum skin cloaks and storytelling.

There has been lots of talk in the office about your workshop and the art piece we developed as a team. Mia Bromley – Project Officer, Hunter New England Health

Their corporate training programs include cultural capacity training, cultural immersion team building days and facilitation. They also offer a wide range of consultation services to business, government, education and community organisations specialising in training and community engagement projects with experience in:

  • Cultural capacity assessment and training
  • Cultural team building activities
  • Community engagement strategies
  • Aboriginal education resources
  • Guest speaker
  • Motivational speaker and mentoring
  • Developing Reconciliation Action Plans
  • Educator ambassador
  • Aboriginal cultural corporate gifts

Cherie is available as a speaker at conferences, events, forums and panel discussions, a facilitator of cultural capacity training courses, and as a visual artist and photographer, Cherie also has experience in residential and commercial developments embedding Aboriginal cultural motifs in walkways, signage, sculpture and landscape features.

Read about some of the fantastic work Cherie has been doing in her community:


I asked Cherie about her experience in the NSWICC Business Accelerator Program to gain some insight into how it works, why it’s so important and how it has impacted her and her business:

I met Debbie Barwick as a member of my Local Aboriginal community. I understood she was heavily involved in business so I went to her seeking support and guidance in my own business. Once I was a member of the chamber she began to get a greater understanding of my business and skill set. When the NSWICC sent out a request for EOI to participate in the accelerator course I knew this was an opportunity to work with people who not only have successfully built their own business, they have proven their ability to help others do the same thing.

As a group we represented 10 different businesses all at varying stages in our development. The course brought us together fortnightly with tasks to complete after each session. One of the highlights was meeting in a corporate setting. Each fortnight we covered different parts of business planning. We explored a lot of the topics and areas I had never really explored in that much detail before, however doing so gave me a much greater understanding of the bigger picture, for example risk mitigation in relation to tendering.

There have been many tangible benefits: a new more detailed business plan/process and polices, developed understanding of tendering processes and a greater understanding of how to get process down to minimal risk.  However, it is the intangible which I found personally so impactful. We have developed a solid network of Aboriginal business owners who inspire me, champion me on and who I can’t wait to collaborate with as the opportunities arise.

I am so immensely proud of the quality of Aboriginal business out there, making a difference in the market place and their own Communities.

As an educator and artist, I know that communication across the generations is the key way to effect change in our society. I choose to work with young people so that they have access to the best information and experiences relating to Australia’s unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. In the true spirit of reconciliation, I share my story and my skills so that people can build a better understanding of our diverse Indigenous cultures.

At Speaking in Colour our mission is to educate, equip and encourage businesses and educators to embrace Aboriginal people and culture with the aim of reconciliation.


Educate all Australians about the Aboriginal people and culture with our cultural education programs,

Equip the corporate sector with skills and RAP solutions tailored to their unique needs

Encourage educators to embed Aboriginal perspectives into their classrooms with our nationally endorsed training

This enables us to implement our social impact policy which provides cultural and economic opportunities for our local communities with a focus on Aboriginal women and youth.