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Art, business and four feet of wind

“It’s about taking responsibility to teach this culture to the people of this country. This is the oldest culture in the world.”

Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let’s work together for a shared future.


This is the theme of NAIDOC week 2019.


It’s also a vision shared by local Indigenous artist and gallery owner Stan Yarramunua: “When you meet your maker, they’re not going to ask you ‘how many pairs of shoes did you own?’ but more like, ‘how many people did you help?’”




For Stan, most of his adult life has been about having his voice heard, sharing his culture and giving back to communities across Australia. Born Stan Dryden, ‘Yarramunua’ which means ‘wise fella’, was the name given to him as a gift by an Aboriginal elder, Mate Mate, almost 26 years ago.


And this is the name he owns proudly - it is one that identifies him as an Aboriginal man and provides ties back to his rich heritage.




Stan is passionate about giving back to the community and helping others in need.


He was aged in his early 20s and working at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre when almost by accident he discovered he could paint.


One of the programs the centre ran for clients was an art class. There was a spare blank canvas left over from one of the classes and he recounts in his recently released memoir thinking to himself “Stan, my friend, give it a crack”.


When the art teacher came back in on Monday morning, she caught sight of his painting and was so captivated by his creation she offered to buy it from him on the spot.


“Back then in my early 20s, I thought ‘this could be my new career’ – I didn’t realise what was coming” he recalls.

NAIDOC week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 


National NAIDOC Co Chair John Paul Janke believes 2019 is also a unique opportunity to hear this nation’s Indigenous voice, stating “It’s time for our knowledge to be heard through our voice – an Indigenous voice of this country that is over 65,000 plus years old”.



The business of selling his art has seen an incredible trajectory over the last 26 years. He has gone from selling his artwork at a stall on the St. Kilda Esplanade to having numerous stalls at the Queen Victoria Market to now being the owner of popular art galleries in Melbourne and St Kilda.


As a business banking customer of ANZ, Stan has had the opportunity to set up a stall over the past couple of years at the marketplace at the ANZ head office in Docklands, selling his artwork and sharing his culture with the people of ANZ.


“Wherever I do it, whether it is in places like ANZ or different companies across Australia, it’s about taking responsibility to teach this culture to the people of this country. This is the oldest culture in the world and it’s a pleasure to be part of it,” he says.

An unconventional life


Despite never going through the traditional schooling system, it is clear Stan’s astute mind and natural charisma contribute to his overall business acumen.


Witnessing him close a deal on the sale of one of his paintings at his gallery in St. Kilda, Melbourne, it is evident he is a skilful business person in addition to being an extremely gifted artist.


While we’re chatting he’s also educating us with certain facts about Aboriginal culture such as “and a boomerang. It’s not a boomerang, it’s called a ‘Kylie’”.


And also talking about his beloved digeridoo: “I love playing the digeridoo. It’s the oldest wind instrument and we believe the second oldest sound – the first was the voice, then the digeridoo”.


For a customer who has purchased an artwork and is preparing to leave the gallery he hands over a free copy of his book (his memoir titled ‘A man called Yarra’).


“Oh, fantastic! Thank-you so much! I look forward to reading it” she exclaims, elated.


He certainly understands the importance of delighting the customer. “Customer service” he says out of earshot of the customer. “Keep ‘em coming back – like a Kylie”.  


The interaction exemplifies Stan’s effortless combination of down-to-earth business savvy and belief in something higher than himself, a balance key to his commercial success.


After the customer has left the store he says “See, the painting picked her, she didn’t pick the painting”.


From experience


When asked his one piece of advice for people looking to follow their dreams is, Stan replies “Whatever is inside you that stirs you up with passion – feed it. Whatever else other people are saying that they don’t think that you can do – delete it. Just go on what you feel, this is your journey, it’s your passion, your vision – just let go and let it happen”.


And he firmly believes the best is yet to come.



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