Business School Topics
Indigenous businesses need to start looking towards the next generation, a conference at The University of Western Australia Business School has been told.
Speaking at the Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference, the panel of Indigenous entrepreneurs, academics and business owners reminded delegates that more than half of the Australian Indigenous population is aged under 25.
Pain is power
Managing Director of G Cole Consulting Gordon Cole said Indigenous business leaders had a responsibility to assist future generations.
"How do we build the capacity of businesses and support the next lot that might want to come through? When we climb a ladder we need to put more ladders down," Mr Cole said.
"When I look across the community I guess there's a lot of hurt and pain in our community and there's a healing process that needs to occur. We need to turn that hurt and pain into our power and that power is about talking.
"Western Australia is not behind. Contracts being awarded in this State are ground-breaking, history making. We need to heal our mob. We did have commerce and trade before 1788. It has been delayed because of a process called colonisation and we need to reclaim our trade back."
Aboriginal people must not be an ‘add-on'
Chair of Desert Knowledge Australia, Fred Chaney, reminded Indigenous businesses that they are operating in a mixed economy where government plays a role.
Mr Chaney highlighted the importance of training young Indigenous people and said that in any plan to turn Australia's north into the ‘food bowl of Asia,' Aboriginal people must be consulted.
"Aboriginal people must not be an add-on to this latest plan to develop the north or any other development. Land tenure shouldn't be seen as an obstacle but as part of the process," Mr Chaney said.
The future is our children
The University of Newcastle's Professor Denis Foley told delegates it was important to set ambitious goals for the Indigenous business sector.
"The future is our children. We need to not only give them a good education but also to look after the old people to make sure they're there to give them the stories," Professor Foley said.
"We currently have about 2000 people in the network with the Indigenous chambers of commerce. I'd like to see it at 4000.
"I would love to shift from 20,000 to 30,000 Indigenous businesses. And we can do it. Financial independence through self-employment is self-determination, and so I think self-employment is something to be very proud of."
A future in farming
David Collard, State Aboriginal Natural Resource Management Coordinator at the State Natural Resource Management Office said land returned to traditional owners through Native Title would make land management a critical issue.
"In the Southwest we have our Single Noongar Claim which is being negotiated and hopefully there's a future after it," Mr Collard said.
"We have a capability problem. If all this land is given back to us, who's going to manage it? If we buy back our land it means we buy back farms. Getting involved in the agribusiness sector is one of the first core businesses that Noongars need to start addressing."
Collaboration is key
Panellists highlighted the importance of collaborating with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, and in investing in health and education.
Other panellists included: Debbie Barwick, Chairperson of the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce; Toni Ah-Sam, Director of Ochre Business Consultants; Joe Ross, Director of Muway Constructions; Lesley Nelson, Director of Indigenous Banking Solutions; and Andrew Johnson, Director at RSM Bird Cameron.
The Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference was held at the UWA Business School on 1-2 December.