Marissa Verma is synonymous with Cockburn, having grown up in Hamilton Hill with Walliabup-Bibra Lake and Coogee Beach on the shores of Derbal Nara (Cockburn Sound) as her playground.
It was the local bush, lakes, wetlands and beaches that helped cement her identity as a member of the Nyungar nation with links on her grandmother and mother’s side to the Goreng people of Katanning in the Great Southern and the Yidinji clan from Far North Queensland on her grandfather and father’s side.
Instantly recognisable by her trademark smile and larger than life personality and generosity, Marissa is the founder and owner of successful Aboriginal business Bindi Bindi Dreaming based right here in Cockburn since 2000.
With the permission of her Elders, Marissa shares the local Nyungar culture at regular workshops that sell-out in record time, and a catering service offering bush and other traditional foods is in constant demand.
It’s no surprise that kangaroo meatballs with a bush tomato dipping sauce are the most requested item, with hundreds supplied to workshops and events across Perth every month.
The enterprising businesswoman is a great supporter of fellow Aboriginal-owned and operated businesses in Perth, WA and Australia-wide, with demand for the services she and her hard-working team provide continuing to eclipse her dreams, every year.
“Even during COVID, we didn’t slow down. People have loved our online workshops and it’s opened a new way to connect with people,” Marissa said.
“People are becoming more and more interested in Aboriginal culture here on Whadjuk Nyungar Boodjar.
“They appreciate that this is Aboriginal land and want to know more about the flora and fauna and the traditional stories so they can better understand Country and the people who have lived on it for centuries.”
After completing her school years at East Hamilton Hill Primary School and Hamilton Senior High School, Marissa completed a Curtin University Associate Degree in Science and Technology, moving on from her early dreams of becoming a plumber, and then a ranger.
Speaking from her own experience, Marissa encourages young people to grab their dreams with both hands but not worry if they changed their mind halfway through.
“Mistakes are an important part of the journey because it will evolve as you get closer to finding your real passion,” Marissa said.
Her working life began with the former Department of Conservation and Land Management, and then the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, where she fostered a passion for learning culture from Nyungar Elders.
“The Elders were exhausted. It was up to us to learn that knowledge and language and pass it on. This is how Bindi Bindi Dreaming came about,” Marissa said.
Encouraged by mentors and early work colleagues to gather and share Nyungar culture, this generous leadership was vital to her success and something she gladly fosters.
“I love to mentor others so we can all share this important cultural knowledge, or it will be lost forever,” she said.
One of her most influential role modeld is her late Nan, Jane Maher (nee Morrison). She was a loving grandmother to Marissa, her siblings and extended family despite the ongoing challenge of being a member of the Stolen Generations, having been placed at the former Moore River Native Settlement.
“We were all affected by that in our own way but she was so strong,” Marissa said.
“She didn’t speak Nyungar because it was forbidden, but I began learning it from Elders and I am committed to sharing it through cultural workshops that really help form connections to country.”
While admitting it’s hard to choose, Marissa says her favourite place to visit in Cockburn to get back in sync with Country after a busy week is Walliabup, also known as Bibra Lake.
“I love just sitting and being and watching nature at its best. I can feel it rejuvenating my body and soul, and I always feel so much better afterwards,” Marissa said.
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