Tara Medika Launches Indigenous Beverage Company Yaala Sparkling

by The M-POWERed Collective
Wednesday 5 July 2023

It was Tara Medika’s paternal Grandmother who taught her the value of resilience, selflessness, hard work and, she says, “making the most of your life in the time that you have.” Her grandmother passed away in her fifties – but her influence has been a driving force in the Wiradjuri Yinaa (woman’s) latest venture. Yaala, meaning ‘the present moment’ in Wiradjuri language, is a woman-led Indigenous beverage company that utilises native ingredients. Created to honour the true flavours Tara’s ancestors have enjoyed throughout the ages and, most importantly, reconnect with Indigenous culture, Tara has launched with two flavours, both of which were enjoyed by guests at our recent event in Melbourne (Naarm) with Dame Graça Machel.

The first is Lemon Myrtle and Native Blossom. “First Nations People discovered Lemon Myrtle contains properties akin to a superfood, making it an essential ingredient for good health,” says Tara. The second, Davidson Plum and Waratah. “Davidson Plum is one of the most nutritionally powerful native Australian fruits that has more lutein than avocado, more antioxidants than blueberries and 100 times the Vitamin C of an orange,” she says.

Yaala Sparkling is supported by M-POWERED Collective organisation First Australians Capital, a national Indigenous-led organisation that builds investment readiness and designs the right capital solutions for Indigenous businesses to thrive.

Here, M-POWER meets Tara to find out more about her exciting new business.

Yaala translates to ‘the present moment’ in Wiradjuri language – why did you name your business Yaala?
I named my business ‘Yaala’ because in my language – Wiradjuri – it means ‘present’. This resonated with me because my vision is to bring our ancient knowledge, plants and flavours to the present moment for modern people to enjoy in a positive and delicious way.  

Yaala supports true fair-trade practices, Indigenous wild harvesters, and local farmers – how do you do this?
We naturally use our work and products as a catalyst to lift and support the community. We focus on working with First Nations suppliers throughout our supply chain and business, including wild harvesters, local farmers, and artists. Any business using native plants and knowledge passed down over generations has a duty and responsibility to preserve traditional knowledge and invest back into the community.

In everything you do, you acknowledge and celebrate the powerful women that walked this country before us. Who are some powerful women who have played a pivotal role in your life?
My paternal Grandmother, who passed away in her fifties taught me the value of resilience, selflessness, hard work and making the most of your life in the time that you have. Despite her health issues, and labour-intensive work, she was a staunch and powerful matriarch. My maternal Grandmother taught me the value of different perspectives, cultures and walks of life by taking me travelling around Australia and the world. She instilled curiosity and hustle in me with her life outlook. All of these values have been pivotal in driving me along this journey.  

What role does nature play in your life and how do you connect to nature?
My happy place is on the beach or under the surface of the sea so I scuba dive whenever I can. The underwater world feels like a dreamlike state floating through a world of curious creatures. If I can’t be there, then I can’t go too long without being among trees to absorb their ancient energy. Connection to nature is good for your soul and it energises me. 

Yaala combines flavours that represent the different lands of Country – tell us about these flavours and why they’re so meaningful for you?
By incorporating Australian native plants into our diets, we can give our bodies endless health benefits and discover unique and delicious flavours. For example, the Davidson (Ooray) Plum is one of the most nutritionally powerful native Australian fruits that has more lutein than avocado, more antioxidants than blueberries and 100 times the Vitamin C of an orange it has a vivid pink colour and sour notes which is complemented with the sweetness of Waratah botanicals in one of our sparkling waters.

You’ve worked with artists such as Wiradjuri woman Leticia Quince and each of your beverages showcase contemporary Indigenous storytelling – why was this so important to you and can you tell us about the artwork?
Women have traditionally been the protectors and nurturers who hold the power of life and connection with our Motherland. We share stories and learn with each other on our journeys. It was fitting to partner with my fellow Wiradjuri Sister, Leticia Quince to create the artwork for our launch products. One of the artworks displays the plant flavours bursting and growing across different nations while women embrace the beauty of native blossoms and follow the spiritual guidance from our Ancestors. The other piece is about communities coming together in celebration, with the coolamon representing the gathering of native foods to share with everyone.

As a First Nations entrepreneur, what is the most challenging part of starting a business?
As a start-up entrepreneur, you wear the hats of every function in the business, and it can be a steep learning curve entering a new industry. Particularly, manufacturing which is male dominated. I started out with the wrong manufacturing partners which made for a challenging journey. Once I realised this, I met my now manufacturer who shares the same values, working style and really believes in what we’re doing. It’s important to navigate this journey with the right tribe surrounding you.

Finally, what’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
Be a lifelong learner, stay curious and don't be too hard on yourself when things aren’t perfect.