Indigenous entrepreneurs share their election wishlists

With the recent launch of the Barayamal Network and Federal Election coming up, we decided to ask Indigenous entrepreneurs and community members what they would like to see happen to better support the growth of the Indigenous business sector. Here we share the top 3 key issues Indigenous entrepreneurs in the Barayamal Network want to see on the political agenda.

1. Access to capital

It’s not a significant focus of any of the Federal Government Parties; however, we would love to see the future Federal Government to take a proactive approach that will ignite the Indigenous economy through access to capital. For example, the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment figures estimate Māori assets are worth $42.6b — a 15.4 per cent increase from 2010. Accelerating the Indigenous economy in Australia should be a no-brainer for the Federal Government, and it’s not just Indigenous entrepreneurs who can see the benefits.

“We believe there’s great potential for Indigenous Australia to participate in economic growth, and that it is economic participation and commercial enterprise that will lead to better outcomes for Indigenous Australia,” said Peter Nash, Chairman of KPMG Australia.

Indigenous Australians have been left in poverty from land and wages theft that has led to no intergenerational wealth, which also affects our ability to access capital from mainstream lenders. In addition, members in the Barayamal Network have also experienced negative biases,  preferential treatment to other people in the community for Government funding, and higher interest rates in the long-term (paying more for their house loans, etc. in the long-term despite lower interests at the start of their mortgage) from existing government initiatives that are suppose to help Indigenous Australians.

All we want is for the federal government to level the playing field and give Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities a hand up, not a handout. Barayamal has been working on a solution that can fix this problem, which we are launching soon – if the newly elected government are interested in listening and doing things differently, then we would love to chat.

2. Increase education and support programs

The current Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg’s recent budget included $A276.59 million over five years to supporting Indigenous students, which is much needed, however, we believe that the current education system is broken – claims that successful entrepreneurs from around the world have previously spoken about like Gary Vaynerchuk, Richard Branson and even a young Australian teenpreneur, Jack Bloomfield…

“Don’t get me wrong, school is great for the fundamentals. But once you learn how to multiply, divide, speak and spell, the value suddenly stops for those of us who want to walk an entrepreneurial path.” – Jack Bloomfield

From our own experience running the world’s first Indigenous Accelerator in 2016 and a ton of other programs since is that most up-and-coming Indigenous entrepreneurs are young and very enthusiastic about achieving their self-determination aspirations but sometimes lack the skills or support needed to execute and grow their businesses.

By increasing education and support programs that empower Indigenous entrepreneurs, Australia will build a pipeline of entrepreneurs who think differently and can leverage the world’s oldest culture to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems we face, e.g. climate change, sustainable practices, etc.

3. IPP accountability – greater impact in communities vs making a few people rich

Despite being hailed as a massive success, the Indigenous Procurement Policy was high on the agenda for Indigenous entrepreneurs and community members who would like to see the social procurement policy have a more significant impact in Indigenous communities instead of making a few people rich.

Initially launched to help close the disparity gap because Indigenous businesses are substantially more likely to employ Indigenous people, the current Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion backtracked after the policy received criticism from Warren Mundine in The Australian (2017). Scullion expressed his disappointment, and the criticism would supposedly have been an issue “if the IPP was an employment policy. It’s not.” However, the following year Nigel changed his mind again with an initiative that aimed to “crack down on dubious joint ventures that take advantage of the federal Indigenous Procurement Policy.”

According to Scullion’s government report, since 1 July 2015, the IPP has resulted in over 11,933 contracts awarded to 1,473 Indigenous businesses with a total spend of $1.832 billion in goods & service.

However, the feeling within the Barayamal Network and the greater community is that the IPP only really benefits a select few and will only create a few Indigenous millionaires instead of helping close the massive disparity gap and making a difference in communities.

Conclusion

The Federal Election will provide an exciting opportunity for the new Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Government to actually make a real difference, instead of developing tokenism policies and spending a ton of taxpayer money that has done little to actually Close the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

In our opinion, Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic development is the high growth employment and community development solution to help close the massive disparity gap.

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