Former Reconciliation SA Board Member and Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri Elder Mandy Brown has led a busy life. Always working, always creating, and always healing. Mandy is a survivor of the Stolen Generations like her grandmother, and her mother before her, and now has three adult children of her own, ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild who she looks after full-time.
While being a part of the Stolen Generations, and not knowing she was a Peramangk woman, Mandy has been able to live on Peramangk country most of her life.
“I grew up on Peramangk country most of my life and always loved the Adelaide hills, and had a real sense of connection with Mount Barker, long before I knew I was Peramangk.” But it’s sad, Mandy recalls, “finding all the information has been interesting, but so much language has been lost”.
However, the franticness of her life isn’t looking like it will slow down any time soon. Before the pandemic, Mandy planned on opening a business on Peramangk country in Strathalbyn, and while the pandemic was a speedbump, Aunty Mandy launched her business regardless.
Named after the Kimberly Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation’s Stolen Generation flower, the Desert Rose, but also in respect to her granddaughter, Rose, who Mandy was going to go into business with before her granddaughter passed away in 2019, Desert Rose Gifts was launched in early November 2021. Initially envisioned as a flower shop, after Mandy completed her trade as a florist Desert Rose Gifts has become much more in a short amount of time. Mandy recalls, “Rose passed away suddenly in December that year, and then came Covid. So, everything was shelved. And yeah, and then we had to move house all while working through the grief”.
But Mandy is happy she moved forward with the business. “It’s going really well”, Mandy says. “A lot of non-Aboriginal people come in as well and want to talk about Aboriginal culture. A lot of never had that opportunity before. They want to engage with someone and ask questions”.
The flower shop also acts as a retail outlet for Aboriginal art and giftware, by artists such as Dave Booth, who lives in Mt. Barker, Kat Bell from the Riverland and books from authors such as Boandik Elder Ken Jones, Ali Cobby Eckermann and many more.
Mandy even recounted that farmers have come in and spoken about sites they’ve found on their own private property, curious about the meaning, where it could have come from, who could have made it. Mandy finds it interesting and is happy people have been willing to engage and learn “It’s sort of like my, you know, my mission here to talk to people”, Mandy says.
Past the shop floor, you’ll even find an area to sit and yarn, “people come in and talked about their mental health. And that's why I created this space as a quiet space and then they can have a cup of tea and a piece of fruitcake. No need to do or purchase anything. And I've got the chair and table at the front as well for people to just sit”.
Another room functions as the workshop, where Mandy can create all of her flower arrangements, but also use the space as a place to conduct cultural workshops, such as weaving, language and cultural sharing. “It’s an environment that's not a boardroom or office. This is a friendly space, they can make some flowers arrangements or do whatever we do, you know, their hands will be working and that tends to open people up.” Mandy explains.
The former counsellor has worked to open a flower shop that not only offers flowers a product that can provide comfort in its recipient, comfort but is a place of comfort for the purchaser. A place of learning, sharing, and understanding.
Desert Rose Gifts has opened just in time to purchase the perfect Christmas gift and is located at 26B High street, Strathalbyn, and the hours are Wednesday to Friday 9.30 am -5 pm, Saturday 10 - 4 and Sunday 11 – 3.