In 2006, proud Birri Gubba man Wayne Denning left a successful career in Australia’s federal government to found Carbon Creative, a creative agency that is proudly Aboriginal and anchored in pursuing positive social change for the mainstream to the marginalised.
Wayne and his team of senior creatives help shape and share stories, not only for First Australians but for a diverse client audience. As a dynamic, nimble creative agency, with very few layers, Carbon keeps things simple yet specialised, making them accessible, consistent and sustainable. Their passion likes seeking out the extraordinary in the ordinary, attempting to tip stereotypes on their head and creating social change as they go.
Path to entrepreneurship
Growing up in the coal mining town of Blackwater in Central Queensland, Wayne got a degree in political science and sociology and worked in policy for 12 years.
“I had always been interested in technology and media. When the time came for a career change, I wanted to develop those skills further,” Wayne said.
Aged 34, Wayne enrolled in an MBA at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), focusing on entrepreneurship, strategy and corporate governance. Soon after, he won a spot in QUT’s Creative Enterprise Australia’s incubator, which helped him establish Carbon Creative.
In 2013, Carbon Creative became the first Australian production company to make content for iconic global TV giant Sesame Street, in collaboration with Indigenous pop artist Jessica Mauboy. A huge success, the award-winning song 5 Kangaroos was broadcast in over 140 countries reaching more than 780 million people worldwide.
The segment led to several more projects with Sesame Workshop and opened the door for Carbon Creative to pitch to the BBC, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros and Disney.
Queensland growth on a global scale
With 12 staff helping the business turn over more than $2 million a year, Carbon Creative has retained its Brisbane base, operating from the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.
“Queensland is an ideal location for us. Technology means we can and do operate a national footprint in advertising and also maintain a global reach through our ongoing work with Sesame Workshop in the US and around the world,” Wayne says.
Training the next generation
Wayne is also the brain behind STEM.I.AM, a dedicated social change initiative to promote the study of STEM and enterprise with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth around Australia.
“It is so important for Indigenous cultures and languages to be present and alive in the digital world. First Australians can’t afford not to have a stake in the digital economy. We’re working to ensure we inspire and motivate our kids now so they can be legitimately part of STEM-related fields into the future,” he said.