Closing the Indigenous Economic Gap
7 October 2009 at 5:58 pm
More should be done to encourage Aboriginal small business ownership, the Social Enterprise World Forum has been told in Melbourne.
Aboriginal business has emerged over the past 20 years, but still only makes up 0.17% of the small business sector in Australia, according to Chair of the Indigenous Business Council of Australia Neil Willmett.
ABS statistics show that Aboriginal owned businesses in Australia have declined by 20% between 2001 and 2006, says Willmett. According to the 2006 census, there were 2 million businesses in Australia, and 3000 self-employed aboriginal people.
Willmett praises the recent trend of Indigenous business owners leading reforms – organisations like AIMSC, IBCA, the Victorian Aboriginal Economic Development Group, and Indigenous Chambers of Commerce which are springing up around the country.
Willmett says that in June 2006 Indigenous people made up 2.5% of the Australian population, and we should therefore aim for 2.5% of the small business sector to be made up of Indigenous owned business.
Willmett was chairing a ‘Thought Leaders Panel’ at the forum, focused on ‘Closing the Indigenous Economic Gap’.
CEO of the Koori Heritage Trust, Jason Eades, used the forum to highlight the need to open access to capital for Aboriginal people. Eade says that while many Aboriginal communities are equity rich – from land and buildings – community members cannot access the equity.
Eade called on governments to seriously consider underwriting microfinance loans for Indigenous businesses.
Eade says enterprise and business are not new for Aboriginal people, they have been an important part of life since long before European arrival in Australia. He says that not participating in the economy – largely due to exclusion – is a new thing for Aboriginal people.
Eade says it is time to reintroduce and reconnect Aboriginal people with the economy – in some ways it is a return to the old ways.
Eade says it is important for many Aboriginal people to work for the community and to work together with other Aboriginal people. Social enterprise helps Aboriginal people deal with these community obligations.
Social enterprise brings together commercial activity for community benefit according to Natalie Walker CEO of the Australian Indigenous Minority Support Council.
Walker sees supplier diversity as a way of ensuring the growth of Indigenous businesses. Her organisation, the Australian Indigenous Minority Supply Council, works to bring Indigenous businesses into the supply chain of large businesses.
Walker says that by focusing solely on procurement they enable minority owned businesses to compete in the supply chain of large companies.
Pro Bono Australia is proud to be a partner of the Social Enterprise World Forum.