Bursaries open doors for those in remote areas
12 May 2022 at 8:24 am
Bursaries are now open for this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum
For people living in rural and remote areas, attending a conference or event can seem out of reach.
Simply getting to places can be incredibly difficult, not to mention expensive.
Alexie Seller is the co-CEO of Enterprise Learning Projects and convener at Impact North, based in Darwin. She told Pro Bono News that for many of the entrepreneurs they work with, the cost burden of attending an event can be huge. And the more remote you are, the more expensive it is.
“Whilst it is possible to get a flight, in our context maybe from Darwin, flights are pretty expensive, and lots of people have anywhere from a five to 15 hour drive to get to Darwin,” Seller said.
“Flights from Tennant Creek to Darwin only go every two days, so you might be adding on two days of accommodation somewhere before you can actually even start your travel to a forum.
“I think the other piece is that most organisations in our region are small, the majority of businesses in the NT have one to two employees, and they don’t have budget set aside for conference attendance.”
She said this meant these kinds of professional development opportunities were simply out of reach for most organisations unless they are supported.
This is where bursaries can come in.
They can help cover the costs of travel and accommodation, or in some cases even go towards covering childcare costs – which is particularly important for people with children who live away from their families.
To make sure everyone who wants to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum can, the event organisers have launched over 100 bursaries for the in-person SEWF22 event in Brisbane this September.
There are four categories of bursaries: First Nations, for current and emerging First Nations entrepreneurs; Rural and Remote, for rural or remote Australian entrepreneurs or business leaders who are passionate about supporting their local community; Youth, for an Australian youth entrepreneur or leader, under the age of 30; and Financial Hardship, for social enterprises that will face hardships and difficulties attending SEWF22.
The fund for each bursary covers the cost of attendance: event ticket, accommodation, plus return airfares from the nearest major airport.
Seller said the bursaries really made it possible for people to attend the forum.
“Without that, I think no one in our region that we’ve been talking to would be even looking at the opportunity,” she said.
“But thanks to the bursary we’ve already spoken to at least 20 people who are really excited to apply – almost all First Nations remote entrepreneurs, which is awesome to see. So we’re hoping to fill up a lot of the seats from up here.”
Impact North is also taking proactive steps to support those attending the conference.
Seller said many Indigenous entrepreneurs may never have attended a forum like this before, and for some it could be their first time travelling interstate.
“So what we’re doing at Impact North is offering additional support on top of the cash bursaries that comes from SEWF to help people to coordinate their travel and to notify them about where we’re staying and what flights we’re on, so we can travel as a group and they can meet other people who are coming from the region and sharing a similar experience, which is really important. Otherwise it’s a lot of new things to go through all at once,” she said.
“We’d love to know who is coming and be part of their journey if it helps them.”
She said as well as bringing diverse voices to the forum, supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs and people from rural and remote areas opened up a huge number of doors for people who wouldn’t normally have access to those spaces.
“I think when we’re talking to entrepreneurs across Northern Australia right now, our main point is this is a one-off opportunity, the world is coming to Australia and it is your chance to get out there and network and learn and be inspired and share your story,” Seller said.
“What is social enterprise for if not for empowering communities who don’t have access to things? Fundamentally that is what most of our problems stem from – disadvantage.
“Solutions, ideas and innovations are not going to be possible unless those voices are there representing what they see and know.”
Applications for the bursaries close on 1 June.