Governments must achieve a balance in funding areas for Indigenous progress, with more weighting required in economic participation, according to public sector leaders at an Indigenous Business, Corporations and Entrepreneurship Conference 2011 at The University of Western Australia yesterday.
Duncan Ord, the Deputy Director General Operations, Department of Indigenous Affairs, said very little State Government funding was provided for economic participation, compared with projects such as maintaining safe and supportive communities. 2008-2009 figures show that $6 million was provided to the former and $814 million to the latter areas.
Mr Ord said the emergence of Aboriginal social entrepreneurs - where individuals or organisations started initiatives with broader aims than individual or family wealth creation - was a challenging development.
"Aboriginal social entrepreneurs are often treated with hostility and suspicion," he said, describing a "latent apathy" that has its roots in past welfare systems.
Mr Ord said a lack of tolerance for risk in Aboriginal businesses that wasn't necessarily evident for non-Aboriginal businesses could lead to a shortfall in Indigenous enterprise funding.
Brenda Love, Director Strategic Partnerships, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, told delegates that there were a range of priorities for Indigenous economic development through the Closing the Gap national agenda. These included: strengthening foundations and creating an enabling environment for Indigenous economic development; education; skills development and jobs; business and entrepreneurship; and financial security and independence.
Ms Love said that fostering Indigenous business and entrepreneurship would call for private sector partnerships, a supportive environment for the growth of the Indigenous business sector, and increased economic outcomes from government investment.
"It is important that we continue to build knowledge of the Indigenous business sector," she said.
Yesterday's forum was the inaugural annual conference of the Centre for Social Impact, located within the UWA Business School.
Sonia Nolan, Community Engagement and (+61 8) 6488 8562 / (+61 4) 01 034 103
Corporate Affairs Manager, Centre for Social Impact
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783