Influencer Sarah's Day slammed over didgeridoo gift

·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·7-min read

YouTuber and fitness influencer Sarah Stevenson, AKA Sarah's Day, has been hit by social media backlash after gifting partner Kurt Tilse, a didgeridoo for Father's Day from their son, Fox, one.

The didgeridoo, or yidaki, is a symbol of cultural and spiritual significance and originated in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. It's thought to be the world's oldest musical instrument and is over 40,000 years old.

Kurt Tilse playing the didgeridoo
Sarah Stevenson and partner Kurt Tilse are getting slammed after the YouTuber gifted Kurt a didgeridoo for Father's Day. Photo: Instagram/kjtilse

Kurt wrote on his Instagram page: "Fox loves when I create and play a DIY didgeridoo, so he decided to get me the real thing for Father’s Day.

"What a special gift, rich with so much culture. Great morning spent with the ones I love most!"

He added: "I’d also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Dharawal speaking people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land of Sutherland Shire."

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Despite the recognition of the instrument’s importance, one user commented on the photo: "I wish this was a picture of you reading an Indigenous children’s book to your son. So many ways to appreciate First Nation’s culture that isn’t appropriative."

Another said: "Bro this ain’t it. I wish you learnt from last time and this was a book or an artwork from an actually Aboriginal run business, not white folks marking up prices on Aboriginal art & culture and selling it for profit.

"You have a huge following, you were offered so many opportunities for education that you clearly did not take and you need to do better. So disappointing."

However, most comments were overwhelmingly positive. One user wrote: "Happy Father's Day! Such a lovely gift."

Another added: "Guys, I think you are the cutest family on the planet right now. Happy fathers day!"

"You’re so good at it!! I love the didgeridoo," someone else said.

Olivia, of the BlakBusiness Instagram account, took to her Instagram Stories to call out the couple as she believes they purchased the didgeridoo from a business that isn't Indigenous-owned.

Kurt took to his own Instagram Stories, revealing the instrument had been purchased from Spirit Gallery, which, according to a post shared by Olivia, are not "Aboriginal owned", but instead work "closely with Aboriginal-owned and operated community centres to source its products".

Olivia of the BlakBusiness Instagram page, shared what was wrong with the gift. Photo: Instagram/BlakBusiness
Olivia of the BlakBusiness Instagram page, shared what was wrong with the gift. Photo: Instagram/BlakBusiness

Back in May, Sarah was forced to apologise after being called out for cultural appropriation for wearing double braids in a new campaign.

After sharing a photo of the new campaign, the post was quickly inundated with comments from horrified fans, who called her ‘culturally insensitive’ for styling her hair into two long, blue braids for the video.

“You have a huge platform and you can’t seriously be this culturally unaware,” one person wrote.

Olivia revealed the issue was that they had not supported an Aboriginal-owned business. Photo: Instagram/BlakBusiness
Olivia revealed the issue was that they had not supported an Aboriginal-owned business. Photo: Instagram/BlakBusiness

“I love everything you do and I’m so happy to see how far you’ve come! But this was a bit culturally insensitive. It would be great if you could address this and have a second go at the campaign. Maybe feature some strong black women in the above look alongside you,” another person wrote.

At the time, Sarah responded to the backlash, saying she was ‘heartbroken’ and was pulling the campaign before its release.

“I created a mood board which was full of festival hairstyles including colour, length and braids. We selected various elements of our past activewear campaigns to show the evolution of my life and fitness since becoming pregnant etc,” she said.

“Upon posting the images, I have been made aware of the controversy surrounding this kind of hair style. As I wear my hair in braids regularly and have had blonde extensions braided before, we genuinely thought it was an elevated photoshoot choice to add the blue extensions in to match the collection colours.”

Sarah's Day in her scrapped campaign
Sarah has previously been slammed for cultural appropriation. Photo: Instagram/Sarahs_Day

She went on to say that it ‘genuinely’ breaks her heart to have offended anyone and said she has been educating herself on the topic of cultural appropriation.

“I’d be lying if I said I completely understood what was ok and what wasn’t. I’m still doing my best to understand and be aware,” she said.

At the time, Olivia says she reached out to both Sarah and Kurt, who also worked on the campaign, in the hopes of educating them.

And on Sunday, Olivia shared a screenshot of the message she had sent to the couple, saying she'd "kindly reached out to Kurt and Sarah during their last scandal offering education and received nothing".

In her message, Olivia said: "If you'd like some help in better understanding cultural appropriation vs cultural appreciation I'm happy to step through this with you.

"Alternatively, I can send you some resources or recommend measures to prevent this in the future."

Olivia added she didn't publicly shame the couple at the time, but now she is "upset and frustrated".

"I don't want an apology. I want people to do better. I'm so tired, SO TIRED, of feeling that our people are unseen and unheard," she wrote.

Olivia claimed she had attempted to comment on both Kurt and Sarah's recent posts on Instagram to draw attention to the issue, however, her comments were deleted.

Some of Olivia's Indigenous followers shared their thoughts with one user writing: "Have obviously NOT educated themselves OR engaged with mob since the last incident. Shame."

"Absolutely so inappropriate and disrespectful," another added.

Someone else wrote, "Yet another example of privileged white Australians oblivious of their actions."

"Makes me so mad. So wrong. Definitely a no from me," one person said.

Olivia also shared ways non-Indigenous people can educate their children about Aboriginal people:

Olivia of the BlakBusiness Instagram account sharing why she was upset
Olivia of the BlakBusiness Instagram account shared ways non-Indigenous people can educate their children about Aboriginal people. Photo: Instagram/BlakBusiness

Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle on Monday, Kurt revealed “care and research” had gone into the purchase and the couple’s only intention was to support Indigenous culture and business.

He said, “Care and research was taken ahead of time to source the product from an ethical supplier, with the implicit intention to support indigenous businesses and culture.

“The decision to purchase from Spirit Gallery, was the result of this research and information found via the website... To suggest that care was not taken to respect and acknowledge the cultural significance of the Didgeridoo is false.”

Kurt also shared that he had been in touch with Olivia via Instagram but had not yet heard back from her.

In the message, he thanked Olivia for bringing the discussion to his attention, adding he and Sarah purchased the didgeridoo to teach their son about Indigenous culture.

He said, "We are happy to participate in dialogue that is helpful, informative, helps to educate ourselves and our community and brings positive change.

Kurt's response to BlakBusiness via Instagram DMs
Kurt has since responded to Olivia, but has yet to hear back. Photo: Supplied

"Before making the purchase, we had researched Spirit Gallery and it was our understanding that the profits from each purchase go directly back to the indigenous community. Our intention was to support indigenous business and we believed that this was enabling us to do so.

"Furthermore, by making the purchase our intention was to teach our son about indigenous culture."

He continued, "Like everyone we are doing our best to educate ourselves and we're striving to be a positive influence for change.

"We have worked hard to cultivate a community that is positive and supportive of one another and we are constantly educating ourselves for the betterment on this community.

"When people are aggressive, use vulgar language towards us or members of our community, threaten violence and incite hate, we must take steps to protect our community.

"We have zero tolerance towards bullying, violence and threatening behaviour."

Kurt finished by saying, "I hope together we can create positive change on this topic and cease divisiveness."

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