Webinar summary: Bold Action for Investing in Racial Equity

On the 27th October 2021, First Australians Capital hosted a panel discussion, moderated by FAC’s Steve Stanton with guests Benson Saulo and Natalie Walker. The panel were given a simple task to provoke the audience with this question: What is required to advance Economic Justice for First Australians? 

Our panel presented a persuasive argument for investing into the Indigenous economy. 

You can watch the webinar at the link here.

Here are some key takeaways and snippets from the conversation: 

Investing in Indigenous enterprises means investing in strength-based, opportunity led enterprises that add significant value to their communities and to the economy. 

Conversation Snippets: “Where the opportunity lies” 
  • Since the introduction of the government Indigenous procurement policy in 2015, $5.3 billion in contracts have been awarded to Indigenous businesses. In the prior years before the policy the annual spend was $6 million. The demand is there in the corporate and government sectors, and there is growing demand in non-traditional sectors. As an example, we already have highly efficacious, high performing, models of care for our aging population that were looked to as analogues of success during the Aged Care Royal Commission. We are already delivering models that are highly effective models for the future.  
  • There is strength that comes from the adversity we have experience, we see that as advantage, others need to see it as an advantage as well. We know how to solve problems that stem from us being excluded from the economy, we have come up with solutions based off our experience of being excluded and I don’t think that’s well understood. That is fertile ground for opportunity.  
  • The current topic of the moment is climate change, we are moving to a zero-carbon economy. There is clearly a role for Indigenous business and community through land management practices that we have already been delivering. 

Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous Governance are essential pillars in growing the Indigenous economy and supporting sustainable growth of the Australian economy.  

Conversation Snippets: “Busting myths: we are entrepreneurial, we aren’t lazy”. 
  • There is a huge gap in economic participation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Why is that? Because we were excluded from the get-go, from all areas of life and society. When we were included there was nothing to participate with – no intergenerational wealth, no wages. There is so much underpinning the economic injustice we face today.
  • We have to talk about Equity before we talk about Equality.  
  • We need to level the playing field. That is the importance of Indigenous businesses and people being the advocates and leading the efforts. We know the businesses, we understand our strengths, and we know what barriers need to be overcome in order to be able to create success.  
  • What is going to be game-changing? The next horizon is the opportunity to connect Indigenous enterprise to global markets. 

We need to shift the Power dynamics to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are the decision-makers when it comes to growing business and accessing capital.  

Conversation Snippets: Ownership and Driving Change 
  • Native title and the ability to self-determine over your own land is a key component of change. The journey starts with an asset you can take ownership of and leverage to have the opportunity to invest into your community.  
  • The challenge is to take the spotlight off Indigenous business and communities and plant the spotlight on investors. What we have identified over the last 10 years is the lack of access to capital. There’s no shortage of good will. Unfortunately what we’ve have found in the last 5 years is that goodwill only gets you so far. You need commitment, you need people to be comfortable in discomfort.   
  • Investor risk and risk management frameworks are developed with non-indigenous businesses in mind. They are not looking at Indigenous business when thinking about risk frameworks and not thinking about the other side of risk, which is the opportunity or upside.  
  • We need to start with the mindset that the opportunity exists, and the demand is there, we’re not talking about a part of the economy that has no customers. If investors are real about solving economic justice, you need to start with the decision to develop access to capital opportunities in a way that makes sense for Indigenous business and understands the significant positive impact that can be made.  

Conversation snippets: Who needs to be at the table? 
  • Organisations like First Australians Capital are best suited to be one of the key players at the at the table, you know the Indigenous business community and the investor community, you are the translator and help those parties come together. 
  • The disciplined non-conformist: the people that I want around the table are the ones that are willing to work within systems to change systems. There’s no time for bystanders. 
  • We will seize the opportunity; the difference is whether investors are with us or not. It may take a little longer without our investor allies, but we will get there. Be with us as we move up the curve. 

You can find the link to the webinar here

Just remember: if you are not talking about Racial Justice, you are perpetuating Racial Injustice.