New First Nations social enterprise report provides reflection and roadmap for change

A new report by First Australians Capital, commissioned by White Box Enterprises has been released that looks at opportunities and learnings for global Indigenous businesses and the social enterprise sector in Australia.

'Addressing Indigenous Economic Inclusion in the Social Enterprise Sector' includes a series of insights and recommendations for non-Indigenous businesses, as well as a roadmap for change, calling on the Australian social enterprise movement to take an active role in removing barriers for growth for First Nations businesses.

A series of interviews and reflections from First Nations leaders and social enterprises following the Social Enterprise World Forum 2022 informed the report, prepared by First Australians Capital, an Indigenous-led organisation that backs First Australians' cultural, creative and economic strength of First Nations entrepreneurs, to become full, free agents in driving their own economic futures.

A key takeaway from the report is a roadmap for change, outlining three ways the Australian social sector can take the lead to help First Nations enterprises achieve greater success. These include:

  1. Actively working to remove barriers – consider how to better use resources, networks and capital to remove the barriers that inhibit First Nations enterprises from equal participation.
  2. Sharing Risk – recognise the importance of reciprocity. Mutually beneficial relationships are crucial to prosperity. The report calls on the need to cede power, remove bias and focus on relationships.
  3. Sharing Resources – central to First Nations business is sharing. Sharing resources can enable a First Nations business the opportunity to start, grow and mature, which has the potential to shift power and making space for First Nations people.

In addition to the roadmap, the report also covers misconceptions surrounding the Indigenous economy, Indigenous ways of being, learning and listening; responsibility and accountability, reciprocity, shifting power and resources.

According to one interviewee, “90% of my business conversations are with non-Indigenous business, but 90% of our work is with Indigenous people. In those business conversations, we leave our Indigenous identity at the door, because in those conversations our cultural values and our Indigenous knowledges are not valuable, they are not seen as worthy. Only our business knowledge matters. We would love to see that change, because our culture is ingrained in how we work and what our business does.”

Pat Torres, founder of Mayi Harvest, an Indigenous Australian owned and operated business that harvests Australian Native Foods.

The report was commissioned by White Box Enterprises in 2022 in the lead up to the Social Enterprise World Forum in September last year. Indigenous social enterprise was one of the key themes of the Forum.

“With over 100 Indigenous organisations represented at SEWF22, we wanted to find a way to capture the perspectives and learnings,” says Dom Bird, White Box Enterprises.

“Hearing directly from First Nations businesses on their experiences gives us all a chance to reflect and make more informed decisions.”