Paying it forward with Jocelyn King

Jocelyn King is a Bundjalung woman whose aim is to democratise capital with a system that pays it forward to Aboriginal communities both culturally and environmentally. 

Jocelyn was born on Gadigal Country in Darlinghurst and spent most of her childhood in Western Sydney before relocating to the Hunter Valley. 

“I grew up as an urban Aboriginal person knowing that I had descendancy, but not a lot of contact with traditional cultural knowledge” Jocelyn said.

“It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I met some local Aboriginal elders that had known my grandfather, who invited me to go out bush and learn about traditional cultural values.”  

“It was a beautiful experience, and ever since I have been learning about and on Country at Wollombi for about the last 20 odd years.” 

Connecting with culture has furthered Jocelyn’s interest in creating a system where Aboriginal people can not only financially benefit but also culturally thrive in our economic climate. 

“To work for the community was a big deal for me because it’s my cultural responsibility to pass knowledge on and here we are five years later.” 

Journey to FAC 

“My journey with FAC began around 15 years ago” Jocelyn said. “Uncle Paul Gordon, one of the founding members at Yarnteen, alongside Leah [Armstrong], asked for my input.”  

Jocelyn began working at Yarnteen to develop strategies around Indigenous economic development. 

“Whether it be government or philanthropic funding, there is limited funding for Indigenous people to achieve their ambitions within and outside the community” Jocelyn said. “There’s always been competition around the existing limited pool of funding, and so we saw running businesses as a way to generate profits that could then go into different cultural and community activities.” 

And so, they began designing an Indigenous social enterprise hub model where money was invested with other local Aboriginal organisations to start businesses.  

“Leah had asked me to sit on a couple of steering committees over the years, and then about six years ago Leah asked me to take on the role of the founding CEO of First Australians Capital, which I thought was a huge responsibility and a huge privilege” Jocelyn said.  

“To work for the community was a big deal for me because it’s my cultural responsibility to pass knowledge on and here we are five years later.” 

Her Role at FAC 

First Australians Capital aims to remove the barriers that are holding back Indigenous entrepreneurs to create a sustainable and inclusive economy.  

“At FAC we are fortunate to have this shared leadership model where the three of us Leah, Jane and I share the overall leadership and take responsibility for certain areas” Jocelyn said.  

“My responsibility is the business development team. I work with the team to ensure that our services support the community to achieve their economic and impact goals.” 

Jocelyn aims to help Indigenous businesses improve systems, and provide strategic business advice, that are not only going to increase access to capital but are celebrating Indigenous culture and protection of the land. 

Healing Country 

Caring about Country and looking after the land and its people is something Jocelyn is deeply passionate about.  

“My passion at the moment is raising awareness about how traditional foods can be better for people and better for the planet” Jocelyn said. “Caring for Country involves a couple of values, the first value being that you only take what you need, and second being that you use everything that you take. There is a lot of our traditional foods and traditional plant relationships that have commercial value that we’re not commercialising.”  

“Native plants are better for the soil, and they’re better for the environment, so number one is if we grow great native grains instead of Western grains, we’re caring for Country, but secondly it also means that Aboriginal people can derive the economic benefit.” 

“I think that our society allows only a handful of people to hold capital and make the decisions about where and when to invest.” 

Black Duck Foods/ Women’s Murnong Project (Daisy Yams) 

First Australians Capital has received funding from the Ecstra Foundation to support six Indigenous women to grow Murnong on a commercial basis. Jocelyn is working closely with Black Duck Foods and the women to enhance their business plans and learn more about how and when they can sell Murnong for a premium price. 

“We have to grow Murnong in poly tunnels simply because so much of the landscape has changed, and if you plant them and they are not in poly tunnels all the local native animals who have not had the chance to eat them for a long time just gorge on them and decimate them”. 

She has been able to buy her own 100 acres near Dungog and Stroud to which she hopes within the next five to ten years she can turn it into a demonstration property for what growing native food could look like. 

Jocelyn had multiple opportunities to watch her family grow in business — an experience not common to many Indigenous people.  

“I had this understanding of business, and I was able to bring my knowledge and experience into the community as well.” 

Looking forward 

Jocelyn has ambitions to change the functions of the Western capitalist system, creating a ‘pay-it-forward’ capital model rather than a traditional investment firm capital model. 

“I’m really passionate about changing the power dynamics of capital” Jocelyn said. “I think that our society, our Western mindset, our capitalist mindset, allows only a handful of people to hold capital and make the decisions about where and when to invest.” 

Jocelyn sees FAC as custodians of capital that is investing on behalf of others, however, she hopes that in the future the whole metric for how companies are assessed evolves. 

“I’d love to see our businesses, who already have capital, support other business’ in accessing it” she said. “Rather than a due diligence process, it’s more about sharing — where do we put this money next, and how do we get that paid forward.” 

“From a cultural perspective, we’re so used to a sharing mindset that it’s circular, and I think some of that’s been broken by capitalism, so you still have many people in the community who will just share everything, but it doesn’t come back.” 

“I’m interested in closing that loop, and I think our capital can close that loop if we get more of our community involved in deciding where that capital goes, then the loop is closed.”