Melbourne bankers’ dream becomes Australia’s largest fair-trade festival

An event started three years ago by a Melbourne banker determined to make the world a fairer place, has now become Australia's largest fair-trade and ethical festival.

An event started three years ago by a Melbourne banker determined to make the world a fairer place, has now become Australia’s largest fair-trade and ethical festival.

Founders of Fair@Square and fellow Melbourne bankers, Boby Vosinthavong and Susanna Bevilacqua

Fair@Square – launched to build awareness and educate about ethical and socially responsible businesses – might only be in its infancy, but it has secured sponsorship from some of Australia’s most renowned brands including Oxfam, Cadbury, and Lush, and has this year (Dec 2 – 4) doubled in size, with record numbers expected to attend.

Susanna Bevilacqua launched the signature event with fellow banker Boby Vosinthavong, after visiting some of the poorest countries in South East Asia and witnessing first hand the working conditions and environmental impact of mass consumerism.

Within months they had Federation Square on board as a venue, more than 40 Australian businesses locked in to take part in the event, and attracted more than 20,000 visitors.

Just two years later, they have doubled that, with more than 80 businesses involved in this year’s event, and visitor numbers predicted to hit more than 75,000.

The event offers a plethora of experiences, featuring an ethical fashion show, an indulgence tent with live cooking demonstrations using fair and local produce, discussions about ethical and sustainable issues and more than 80 stall holders selling ethical and fair trade products, including everything from beauty products to accessories and jewellery.

The event is now so valued; the City of Melbourne is supporting it.

Councillor Dr Cathy Oke, who has more than 15 years experience in the sustainability sector, says it’s fantastic to see Melbourne leading the way in educating about, and promoting, fair-trade and ethical products.

“It’s a timely event too, just weeks before Christmas, and will encourage sustainable purchases when more often these days people want to give gifts with meaning or purpose.”

Chair of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand, Cheryl Kernot, which also supports the event, says growth of the event over the last three years has been phenomenal and a clear reflection that people are increasingly interested in products with purpose.

She says fair-trade labelled products were only launched in Australia in 2005 and last year had already reached AUD $120 million.

“The Fair@Square event offers a great opportunity for people to see the range of fair-trade products on display and meet with the growing number of social entrepreneurs who work directly with the producers to ensure quality products that are made sustainably.”

Susanna says the Fair@Square event aims to not only nurture that consumer interest but build on it, educating about about why it’s so important to move to a more ethical way of life.

“It’s about not just doing what’s right by the environment, but doing what’s right by those who are sourcing the materials used, and ensuring people are treated fairly for the work they do, regardless where they live.

“We are determined to create events which educate about the importance of fair-trade and ethical products and help drive industry change.”

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