Aboriginal entrepreneurs hope to change perceptions

Deb Nelson Deb Nelson says she hopes she is helping to change opinions of Aboriginal Australians

Deb Nelson, an Aboriginal Australian, wants more members of her community to set up their own businesses.

At the same time, she says many still do not consider it to be a viable option.

"[Becoming an entrepreneur] is really a tough ask for people who forever have been told we're not as good as everyone else," says the 52-year-old.

Yet despite the barriers that indigenous Australians like Ms Nelson feel they have to conquer, she is herself a successful small business owner. And she is far from alone.

There has been a surge in Aboriginal ownership of small businesses in Australia over the past decade or so, according to official figures.

Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), a government agency charged with helping Aborigines forge their own companies, says there were about 4,600 small firms run by Aboriginal people in 2001, compared with 13,000 in 2011.

Among new indigenous business owners are accountants, restaurateurs and gym franchise owners. Meanwhile, IBA says that other productive areas have included the construction, tourism, retail and mining services industries.

With the unemployment rate for indigenous Australians still more than three times higher than the national average, Pastor Ray Minniecon, chairperson of the Sydney Anglican Indigenous People's Committee, says continuing to forge such entrepreneurship is vital to help reduce poverty and welfare dependence in his community.

"The ways in which we now go forward in trying to get businesses going, or getting into good jobs that will help us to participate in the market economy a lot better, is of the utmost importance," he says.

"If we don't do it we will be continually under the welfare system, which I think just kills the spirit."

Ray Minniecon Pastor Ray Minniecon wants Aborigines to lessen their dependence on welfare
'Hand up' help

Start Quote

We are dealing with people who are very driven, motivated and entrepreneurial in their make up and their background”

End Quote Chris Fry Indigenous Business Australia

As traffic roars through the Redfern district of Sydney, a spiritual home for Aborigines in the heart of Australia's biggest city, Deb Nelson talks about her company, Yarn'n, an employment agency which helps people in her community find work.

A former public servant, she took the plunge and set up the business eight years ago. She has the calm, decisive air of a businesswoman who is on a mission to make a difference.

"There are nine of us who work here, seven of whom are Aboriginal people, so we have a really strong cultural base in what we do and how we do it," she says.

Yet although her company continues to be a success, Ms Nelson says it was tough to begin with, pointing out the need to reduce the bureaucracy and business jargon that are a hindrance to Aboriginal start-ups.

Chris Fry, chief executive of IBA, says most Aboriginal bosses are like Ms Nelson.

"We are dealing with people who are very driven, motivated and entrepreneurial in their make up and their background," he says.

IBA supervises government loans given to indigenous start-ups, and its figures show that the average annual turnover of such firms totals 850,000 Australian dollars ($786,305; £465,941).

This is broadly equivalent to non-indigenous firms, while the IBA adds that the companies it helps have a higher survival rate.

Offering a "hand up" and not a "hand out" is how one firm assisted by IBA describes the organisation's work.

Countering the cynics
Paul Newman Paul Newman is behind Australia's first indigenous business magazine

Start Quote

If we have more Aboriginal entrepreneurs out there, who were taking up the challenge, then it would just change the way non-Aboriginal people perceive us, and continue to perceive us”

End Quote Deb Nelson Aboriginal entrepreneur

Fifty-three-year-old Paul Newman was the first indigenous business graduate from the University of Western Sydney.

He runs several companies including a management consultancy and BlackBiz, the country's only online magazine about Aboriginal commerce.

Plans to expand his digital publication to encompass radio and television features are, he says, well advanced.

Yet he adds that he has had to stare down the cynics who still believe that Australia's first inhabitants do not have the capacity to be their own bosses.

"I have always had to be able to demonstrate that we [indigenous Australians] have the qualifications, the ability to be able to do business and compete with the mainstream," he says.

Changing views

Back at the Yarn'n recruitment agency, Ms Nelson hopes that her efforts and those of her contemporaries, are changing opinions.

"I think we are all smart, innovative people," she says.

Aboriginal women sitting on a patch of grass in Alice Springs Deb Nelson says stereotypes about Aboriginal people still exist

"If we have more Aboriginal entrepreneurs out there, who were taking up the challenge, then it would just change the way non-Aboriginal people perceive us, and continue to perceive us.

"I would like to say stereotypes and racism don't exist anymore, but they obviously do.

"But if we have more people out there who were using their inherent skills and talents, and just doing whatever it is that they do, that is what is going to change people's attitudes towards us, and towards our kids and their future."

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Business Live

  1.  
    08:14: Taylor Wimpey results
    house

    If you're a house builder and you're not making piles of money, then something is very wrong. Fortunately for Taylor Wimpey that is not the case. Annual pre-tax profits are up two thirds to £450m before one-off deductions as 12,454 homes were completed across the UK - 758 more than in 2013 - with an 11.5% rise in average selling price to £213,000.

     
  2.  
    07:56: Barclays results
    Barclays

    While Mr Jenkins takes his first annual bonus with Barclays, the overall 2014 bonus pool for the bank is down £520m to £1.86bn. Most of the total - £1.05bn - goes to the investment bank. Its capital ratio, a measure of strength against unexpected losses, is up to 10.3% from 9.1%.

     
  3.  
    07:44: Barclays results BBC Radio 4
    Jenkins

    Barclays chief Antony Jenkins is on Today. The bank is the healthiest it has been since the financial crisis, he says. Changing culture at the bank takes a long time, Mr Jenkins adds, but the "vast majority" of his 130,000 bankers "want to do the right thing". He is taking a bonus of £1.1m after the "huge amount of progress" the bank has made. Asked about the topic du jour, Mr Jenkins says he pays all his tax in the UK and as a US green card holder.

     
  4.  
    07:37: Barclays results

    Barclays wrote down the value of its education, social housing and local authority loan portfolio by £935m. Last year the portfolio was valued at just less than £16bn, but at that time, the lender reclassified the loans as "level 3" assets. That's City-speak for loans you cannot value easily because they don't sell very often.

     
  5.  
    07:24: Direct Line results
    Direct Line website

    It's been a good 2014 for Direct Line, with pre-tax profits up 12% to £456.8m and a windfall of £430m from the sale of its international business. Shareholders will pocket total dividends of 27.2p per share, up from 20.6p in 2013. Harvey Keitel probably pocked a pretty penny too for featuring in its TV ads.

     
  6.  
    07:16: Barclays results

    Antony Jenkins will take his first bonus as chief executive of the lender: £1.1m. The bank also said it would increase its provision for payment protection insurance (PPI) by £200m for the last three months of 2014, taking the year's total to £1.1bn. Excluding these provisions and other things the bank considers one-offs, pre-tax profit rose 12% to £5.5bn. But including the nasties, the figure sank 21% to £2.26bn.

     
  7.  
    07:03: Barclays results
    bank

    Barclays have posted their 2014 results. They have set aside an extra £750m after those investigations for foreign exchange manipulation, taking the pot to £1.25bn.

     
  8.  
    06:53: Barclays BBC Radio 4
    Barclays

    Chris Wheeler, of Atlantic Equities, has also popped up on Today. He tells Simon Jack that Barclays is doing only "averagely well ... it's still work in progress". He expects pre-tax profits to be about £5.2bn when the bank reports its annual results at 7am.

     
  9.  
    06:35: Markets performance Radio 5 live

    Justin Urquhart-Stewart of 7 Investments is still on 5 live. "We are dealing with companies that make a profit and make things," he says of the Nasdaq's rally. The dotcom boom was based on companies that failed to make money, although "we have to be wary" because markets in 2015 are gorged on cheap money and cheap debt.

     
  10.  
    06:23: Barclays results Radio 5 live

    Chris Wheeler of Atlantic Equities is talking about Barclays. £5.2bn pretax profits are on the cards for the bank in its annual results, he estimates - a tad ahead of last year's result. However, "it's the return on equity that counts", he says. The bank is struggling to make 10%, which for a high-risk endeavour like banking is not where you want that figure, Wheeler adds. Results come at 07:00.

     
  11.  
    06:11: Markets performance Radio 5 live

    Justin Urquhart-Stewart of 7 Investments is on 5 live as the markets guest. "You have a global economy in pretty good shape and in the eurozone some better figures," he says, following soaring US markets. The FTSE 100 may grow further if there's better sentiment from China, he adds.

     
  12.  
    06:02: Mobile World Congress Radio 5 live
    Kazuo

    Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent, is in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai is "making some tough decisions" and focusing Sony on things like films and games and camera technology: the areas that make money, he tells 5 live. Like many companies, it's finding mobile phones a tricky market.

     
  13.  
    06:00: Chris Johnston Business reporter

    Get in touch via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on twitter @BBCBusiness

     
  14.  
    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning! US stocks hit record levels, with both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 closing at all-time highs and the Nasdaq breaking the 5,000 barrier for the first time in 15 years. Is that going to last? Stay tuned for more.

     

Features

  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back


  • Aimen DeanI spied

    The founder member of al-Qaeda who worked for MI6


  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?


  • Lotus 97T driven by Elio de AngelisBeen and gone

    A champion F1 designer and other notable losses


Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.