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Plant Bag by Yevu
Photograph: Supplied

Ethical souvenirs to take home from Sydney

Steer clear of the tacky tourist shops around the harbour – instead, take home an ethically made memento from your holiday

Emma Joyce
Written by
Emma Joyce

When you’re having the best holiday ever it’s nice to take home a reminder of your time in the sun, but if you’re only here for a short time it can be hard to find souvenirs that have been made ethically. We’ve asked ten Sydney store owners, market curators and producers to give us their recommendations for ethical souvenirs crafted right here in Sydney, or items made elsewhere in Australia with traceable financial benefits going back to those communities.

Secondhand does not mean second best; explore Sydney’s best op shops and antiques stores while you’re here.

Recommended: 50 things you should do at least once in Sydney.

Ethical souvenirs

Gabrielle Mordy, CEO and artistic director at Studio A in Crows Nest, says, “Studio A’s limited edition range of totes features original designs produced by our collective of artists. When you buy artwork and design products from Studio A, you employ an artist with intellectual disability and ensure Australia’s cultural life includes truly diverse voices.” Koala’, ‘Don’t be Cocky’ by Emily Crockford and ‘Helo Sunshine’ by Damian Showyin.

Curators Hetti Perkins and Jonathan Jones from South East Aboriginal Arts Market at Carriageworks say, “Penny Evans’ ceramics and collaged, mixed media work on paper are underpinned by a keen aesthetic and the innovative expression of her cultural heritage as a Gamilaraay/Gomeroi artist. From her studio in the Northern Rivers, Penny celebrates and re-invigorates local cultural traditions.” All items are handmade, unique and individual.

  • Shopping
  • Fashion

“Dress up your plants in a planter made from wax prints sourced at the markets of West Africa and handmade by Yevu maker Philomena," says Yevu founder Anna Robertson. "Paid above living wages, trained by Yevu, and ensured safe and sustainable place to work in Accra, Yevu women are financially independent and economically empowered.”

Tjanpi Desert Weavers’ baskets, $50-$150
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  • The Rocks

Matthew Oliver, store manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art's shop, says, “Tjanpi Desert Weavers products are handmade by Aboriginal women artists living in the remote Central and Western Desert region of Australia, they are independent makers who weave beautifully designed baskets, sculptures and other products using locally collected tjanpi or ‘dry grass’. They’re a perfect gift for visitors looking to buy authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander products.”

  • Shopping
  • Bottle shops
  • Newtown

“PS Soda is made by real people with real produce, supporting other local small businesses, communities and suppliers," says PS40 director Michael Chiem. "There’s no high fructose corn syrup, no palm oil, no big corporate board meetings, no slave labour. Just a couple of Sydneysiders making their dreams into bubbles.”

  • Shopping
  • Cosmetics
  • Bondi Beach

Bondi Wash founder Belinda Everingham says, “Our natural range showcases distinct scents and botanical ingredients of Australia. It’s a great choice for travellers, containing travel-size body wash (50ml), body lotion (50ml) and travel spray for luggage and clothes (50ml) in three different scents.”

  • Art
  • Sydney

Rebecca Allport, manager at the Gallery Shop at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, says, “We suggest beautiful stoneware pots sourced directly from renowned Aboriginal art centres Ernabella Arts. These unique pieces from Pukatja meet the ethical standards of the Indigenous Art Code, ensuring provenance, artists’ rights, and fair payment for work."

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Annandale

Cornersmith's co-founder Alex Elliott-Howery says, “Made by hand in Marrickville from locally sourced seasonal produce, Sydney’s most popular pickles are a sustainable gift that supports local business, Australian farmers and has handsome environmentally friendly packaging.”

  • Shopping
  • Rosebery

Sasha Titchkosky, co-owner of Koskela in Rosebery, says, “I have a habit of buying a cushion or textile from every country I visit; there’s something so beautiful and tactile about fabrics as mementos – you can feel the place as well as see it in the designs or patterns. These cushions are a collaboration between Jilamara Arts and Koskela, which celebrates an aspect of our country that is unique: our wonderful Aboriginal heritage. The fabric is created in the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, hand printed at the Art Centre, then made in Sydney. Each design tells a unique story that is a wonderful celebration of culture.”

Find ethically made gifts all year round

Ethical shopping in Sydney
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  • Fashion

It’s not always easy to shop ethically, but we’ve found a handful of local businesses that are putting people, animals and the environment first.


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