MECCA MUSE

Tech entrepreneur Mikaela Jade on the two places every Australian should visit one day

A Cabrogal woman, Jade founded Indigital in Sydney, and developed it from Kakadu. “Indigital is Australia’s first Indigenous digital skills training program which teaches kids how to bring Indigenous cultural knowledge, history and language to life through augmented reality, Minecraft and Python coding,” explains Jade, who had spent her career working in environmental conservation. Since then, she has won the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award for female entrepreneurship and is a United Nations Permanent Forum Indigenous Issues delegate, Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Wollongong, and Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Program.

Indigital uses technology to “translate cultural knowledge within Indigenous communities and to showcase their cultural heritage to their visitors in compelling ways.”

The effect of COVID-19 for a tech start-up like Indigital

“Indigital have had a lot of inquiries from Indigenous businesses to help them upskill so they could trade – COVID-19 has been a really challenging situation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses,” explains Jade, who worked with partners to offer complimentary free three-day tech workshops to help Indigenous businesses to support their continued trade. And, with the increase in school from home, they have continued their partnerships with schools.

While she is firmly entrenched in the tech world, Jade is clear that the environment and the outdoors is important for her and her business. “Everything starts and ends with the outdoors (Country) and looking after Country.” Indigital brings traditional Indigenous storytelling to life with augmented reality. “We didn’t want this storytelling to stop, so we sought a new way to provide a parallel experience, while also paying Elders and their communities to be involved. We work with Elders from across Australia, filming them on Country and providing this resource to students and teachers who cannot be on Country at the moment. We are really conscious of the financial impact of COVID-19 on Aboriginal and Torres Strait arts centres, schools and communities and have spent thousands of dollars during COVID-19 in communities working together to build out the platform and program.”

WFH life for Mikaela Jade

While she is exhausted from daily Teams and Zooms meetings, Jade has seen the upside of people becoming more used to virtual environments for her business. “Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO has mentioned that the world has upskilled themselves in technologies two years ahead of where we were all anticipated to be, in only two months of COVID-19.” In her down time, Jade has taken up marathon training, going from lounging around at home regularly to 14km runs in 10 weeks. “I have been training with an inspiring Indigenous coach, Georgia Gleeson.”

“Something to remember is that we will get through this, and it is a great time to think about building the world as we want it, not as it has become,” says Jade sagely. “With women making 85 percent of purchasing decisions, I think we are in a very powerful position to make global change simply in the ways we spend our money.”

Jade has also noticed a shift in people’s attention to the environment – “finally!” “We have all been at home with time to think about our sustainability choices. I’ve had a lot of discussions with other female-led businesses who have completely broken down their companies and started from scratch during the pandemic putting the environment and human health, and diversity at the centre of their new business structures.”

On where to travel around Australia

During self-isolation, Jade and her family have spent time researching on where they should travel next year. “You will see us travelling in convoy across the Tanami, the Kimberley, Exmouth, Warlu Way, and the Nullarbor. We want to support remote communities, and in particular their arts centres and education centres so we are making the 11,000km trip with devices, programs and money to invest in communities along the way.”

As a former park ranger across four states and Territories in Australia, Jade is well experienced in giving Australian travel tips. “The two places every Australian needs to set foot in (preferably without shoes!) is Kakadu, which lives in my heart, and Karijini which is stunningly beautiful and raw.”

And about her beauty routine during the pandemic…

“I’d like to say that I have a comprehensive beauty routine during the pandemic, but the truth is my beauty routine is simply ‘upright’ and ‘send help’,” says Jade with a laugh. For her, it’s about nourishing her skin from the inside out with water, vitamins and exercise. “We’ve just been able to go to a restaurant in Canberra in the past week and I put makeup on and felt absolutely amazing.”

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