Buying ethical souvenirs in Australia may be harder than you imagined. That’s what gave me the inspiration to write about these Australian-made gift ideas.
Have you heard of the fake aboriginal-style souvenirs? Despite a call for change, it’s not illegal to sell them in Australia. But it’s not ethical.
Unfortunately, many tourists do not realise that buying souvenirs in Australia can have a negative impact.
Fake aboriginal-style souvenirs are made by non-Aboriginal people, often overseas. Not only does it fail to help Aboriginal communities, but it also disrespects their culture.
If you’re looking for ethical Australian gifts that contribute to supporting conservation and communities, I’ve listed a few ideas below that I’ve bought or considered buying before.
1. Amber’s food wraps
There are a few reasons why this is a perfect Australian made gift. First, it is a useful gift that will reduce single-use consumption of plastic film wraps. I use them at home and wouldn’t go back to plastic film wrap.
Second, the aboriginal art designs are beautiful and you can trace back their origin. Finally, it is an Australian made gift that comes from an Aboriginal-owned company. Find out more here
2. Bush remedies
Australia is impressive, and one could argue there’s nothing more impressive than how the First People know Australia’s fierce nature. You can take back home a bit of the Indigenous nature expertise as an ethical Australian souvenir.
For example, Bush Balm products are made from wild-harvested medicinal plants by a social enterprise. We’ve brought products from Bush Balm back home as gifts before and, although I cannot promise it solves arthritis, the gift was very appreciated.
Alperstein Designs sell hand creams and lip balms with some famous Australian smells.
3. Aboriginal art
If you’ve got the budget to buy aboriginal paintings, I can’t think of a better Australian made gift. Just be careful when you buy it. Always ask about the painter, and for a certificate of authenticity.
Even for items that aren’t as precious as a painting (such as boomerangs, didgeridoos, sticks…), whenever Aboriginal artwork is involved, asking questions is the best way to fight fake aboriginal-style souvenirs in Australia. Read more about it here.
4. Stainless steel drink bottle
Reusable water bottles make a great souvenir. It reminds you of the trip a few times a day and reduces the amount of single-use plastic if you used to purchase plastic water bottles. I am yet to find an Australian made stainless steel water bottle. The stainless steel drink bottle I recommend below is made in China but designed in Australia, in a socially responsible way. If having an Australian made gift is essential for you, I’ve found a drink bottle made in Australia, but it’s plastic.
Koh Living has committed to abide by the principles of the Indigenous Arts Code. It’s a good way to fight fake aboriginal-style souvenirs. The Aboriginal artist is identified and she receives money with each sale. They have a series of souvenirs illustrated by Aboriginal drawings, including water bottles.
I found their products in one of the mainstream souvenir shops on Brisbane‘s famous Queen Street (Australia The Gift). It makes it easy for me to buy a last-minute Australian gift.
5. A travel mug
Single-use coffee cups are a pest. Travel mugs are a great gift to support positive change and good habits. You can find many designs in gift shops that will remind you of Australia. Some are better than others, in terms of quality but also how they treat their supply chain.
You may want to opt for an Aboriginal design to support indigenous communities. Check out Better World Arts travel mugs, for example. The company has a strong fair trade focus.
I’m not a big fan of buying clothes, as most people often have too many and the clothing industry has huge challenges with its sustainability (water, waste, living wages, just to name a few). I now stay away from most souvenir shirts, jumpers or beach towels that are sold in most gift shops. They are likely to be fast fashion items that won’t last, so it’s not a great souvenir in the end.
But some clothes are original and have a positive impact, so they make a great gift.
It may be hard to find clothes that are made in Australia, but you can find Australian designs. For an ethical gift, you will want to look into brands that support Aboriginal artists and their culture.
I’ve once found in a shop on the Central Coast (1.5hrs north of Sydney) a nice beach towel from Alperstein Designs, but it isn’t available online.
I like gifts that can be used in everyday life. And you’ll have the opportunity to support indigenous communities with these kinds of gifts too.
8. Fold-up bags
Reusable shopping bags are always useful and they’re good for the planet. Add a smart system to keep it small and tidy and a beautiful Aboriginal artwork, and you have a nice Australian gift.
Alperstein Designs offers many options with different artworks and sizes for fold-up bags.
I bought soap as a souvenir in New Caledonia for the first time. And I loved it so I did it again in the Solomon Islands. It’s a useful gift that brings back holiday memories every day. Soap bars also limit the use of plastic bottles for liquid body wash.
You can find hand-made Australian soaps that are based on natural ingredients and give back to local communities. Check out Indigiearth, Juddarnje, Aperstein designs or Better World Arts, for example.
10. Stubby cooler
Stubby coolers are a great souvenir from Australia because it’s something that Australians use all the time but that you won’t find in many other cultures. Plus, it’s light and unbreakable so it won’t be too hard to squash it in your bag.
And if you’re looking for ethical stubby coolers, you may want to consider buying it from Taronga Zoo gift shop, Sydney’s famous zoo. This one is not an Australian made gift but I liked the concept so much that I really wanted to add it to the list. They are made from recycled cement bags. Not only will your purchase support communities in Cambodia, but it will also support conservation through the Taronga Zoo nonprofit organisation. It’s not as local as we can wish, but it combines recycling and community support. Find out more here
Bonus: a koala
This souvenir is hard to beat for animal lovers. You can adopt a koala from Port Macquarie’s Koala Hospital! Of course, you won’t bring it home. No animal lover would actually like this idea. You’ll get a certificate of adoption and they will continue to take care of your koala and their friends. Every year, as you donate money to support injured or threatened koalas, you remember your trip to Australia and these cute fluffy animals.
What ethical Australian made souvenirs did you choose to bring back home? These are just a few examples and I’d love more inspiration. You can share your ideas in the comments below!
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Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.