Australia’s first centre dedicated to Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs opens in Victoria
23 August 2021 at 5:33 pm
Aboriginal businesses contributed $4.88 billion to the Australian economy and provided 45,434 jobs in 2018. The team behind The Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership want to see those numbers increase.
The Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership swung open its doors last month in partnership with Melbourne Business School and the Faculty of Business and Economics in a bid to put Indigenous business leaders on equal footing with non-Indigenous entrepreneurs.
Each year, Indigenous businesses make a significant contribution to the Australian economy, however, getting business education programs to Indigenous entrepreneurs is a difficult endeavour.
By creating Dilin Duwa, the hope is that Indigenous business leaders can get what they need to make their businesses even more successful.
The name Dilin Duwa means “everlasting flow” in the Woi Wurrung language of the Wurundjeri people, on whose lands the centre is located.
Associate Professor Michelle Evans is director of the centre. She says that, in a lot of ways, the centre is an extension of the university’s successful MURRA Indigenous business program.
MURRA sits at the heart of Dilin Duwa
MURRA was created by Evans, and Professor Ian Williamson, a decade after Evans first came to the Melbourne Business School as a PhD student.
“Ian and I started talking about how to find a way to build a pipeline for a flow of incredible Indigenous talent to come into an MBA program,” Evans told Pro Bono News.
“We thought we’d crank start that by creating the MURRA program, where we would bring in excellent [Indigenous] entrepreneurs who are already out there running businesses but who didn’t have access to business education.”
Since it launched in 2012, almost 200 Indigenous entrepreneurs and managers have been through the program and learned about everything from strategy and finance to marketing and leadership.
While MURRA will remain the premier program of Dilin Duwa, Evans says the centre will be running online programs, short courses and 60-minute masterclasses.
The current program (online only at the moment due to lockdowns) is varied and has been inspired by MURRA alumni as well as Evans’ experience in taking business education into regional towns.
The plan is that once Australia opens up, Evans and the team will take a series of Dilin Duwa’s business education workshops into regional Australia – with Broome, Alice Springs and Cairns being top of the list.
“I think that this is where universities can really come to the fore,” Evans says.
“The social purpose of higher education is really to be of service in knowledge building with communities, sectors and industries and asking ‘how can we make business education more accessible and culturally safe?’”
Dilin Duwa and the importance of research
Alongside the business education programs, the partnership the centre has with Melbourne Business School and the Faculty of Business and Economics will play an important role in continuing to drive research into the Indigenous business sector.
Earlier this year Evans and an extended team of researchers worked with Indigenous business data custodians and the Melbourne Institute to deliver Australia’s inaugural Indigenous Business Snapshot. They also developed the Indigenous Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (I-BLADE) 1.0 — a project the centre will continue to work on.
The Indigenous Business Snapshot demonstrated just how important Indigenous business is to the Australian economy.
“We got a figure of $4.88 billion, and that was only a partial representation of a much bigger economy because not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses are registered,” Evans says.
“We really want to continue to build out a broad representation of not just small businesses but also Aboriginal corporations and community-controlled organisations. The snapshot showed us that 45,434 people were employed through Indigenous businesses, which is a pretty incredible economic impact.”
The education sector has to be more inclusive
Evans hopes Dilin Duwa will not only open up the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Business School to Indigenous Australians but encourage other business schools to do something similar.
“We really [need to] think about how to make our educational offerings much more accessible and to pay close attention to what needs to change inside of the business school in order to create much more inclusive student cohorts,” she says. “ Because that’s what will change the future of corporations and government in Australia.”
You can find out more about Dilin Duwa, here