Last weekend, I spent the day with Monash University’s Masters of Marketing students as a speaker for the “Industry Challenges” forum, held at the Caulfield Campus. The panel of experts which included an Indigenous Telecoms CompanySupply Nation and a Senior Manager from Accenture, tackled the industry challenges facing an Indigenous Majority-Owned company.

As per usual, I attend these engagements with the belief that I will add value to the discussion, but I end up receiving priceless insight exceeding what I bargained for.

The discussion started with the other panelists and I sharing our stories, backgrounds and individual journeys with the students. Following that, the real debate started.

The Q&A with the students began, ABC style. The purpose of the latter was for the students to gather additional information to present solutions to our unique challenges at the end of the day.

Generally, all mainstream entrepreneurs know the typical hurdles involved with a start-up such as:

  • Getting access to capital
  • Cash flow
  • Operating costs
  • Hiring, managing and firing staff
  • Fatigue, stress and work-life balance
  • Juggling quality management and business growth

However not many people understand the challenges facing Indigenous businesses. The Indigenous marketplace which has been around for thousands of years has been submerged, thrown under the rug and forgotten. Something which tends to happen during eras of colonisation. Nevertheless, we are gradually re-emerging from beneath, dusting off those old trade routes and looking to rediscover that which we once lost.

A productive policy called the Indigenous Procurement Policy aimed at offering Indigenous Australians a fair crack of the whip when it comes to bidding for Federal/State contracts, has been very encouraging for our community. We have essentially been formally invited back to the economic table as partakers in resources management for our own inheritance.

Sounds promising right? Sounds straightforward? Well it isn’t. A question put forth by one of the students comes to mind: “Isaac how do you handle the mindset “Indigenous Businesses are too risky?””.

Well the fact is that the modern indigenous market is young and growing rapidly, therefore an element of risk to be expected with any new SME.

Specifically, the case of an Indigenous-owned business is different. We must juggle discrimination from both sides of the fence. Our peers categorise us as “flash blaks” or “coconuts” for working with the Government and the latter greet us with an underlying tone of “you’re not good enough for this job.”

I could dwell on and elaborate further about “bad” experiences from Government, private enterprises and/or my own community. However, the point of this article is to keep an open mind and to encourage Corporate Australia, Government & Defence to go the extra mile for us; Indigenous Businesses. We have come a long way and need their help and collaboration to go further.

Disclaimer: My Company Bunjil Energy has not won any contract under the IPP on Federal or State level but has succeed thus far through wonderful partnerships with builders, developers, private clients and defence contractors.

Written by Bunjil Director – Isaac Harrison