Opening of the Creating Common Wealth Forum
Thank you Mark for your kind words of introduction.
And thank you to Gubbi Gubbi elder, Nurdon Serico (pronounced ner-don sir-reeko) for welcoming us to this land.
Ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to be here this morning to officially open the Creating Common Wealth Youth Enterprise Development Forum.
As members of the Commonwealth we represent a diverse group of nations, each with its own unique challenges.
But what we share in common is the role entrepreneurship can play in providing solutions to some of our challenges.
Entrepreneurship really does have the capacity to be the catalyst for change.
And youth, who more than any other segment in society embody the defining characteristics of entrepreneurship, have the potential to be the change agents.
If there is one key message that each of you take back to your local communities after this conference it should be that young people, through entrepreneurship, can affect change.
Lasting change and change for the better.
Diversity of the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth of Nations a unique coalition.
More typically we see international coalitions based on geographic areas, like the Association of South East Asian Nations and the European Union, or economic synergies, like the G7.
But the Commonwealth of Nations is bonded together by something totally different, a common history.
This is reflected in the diversity of regions, cultures, economies and people we represent.
For example at this conference we have people from the cold climates of Canada to the tropical climates of Sri Lanka.
We have a large delegation from the World’s largest island state, Australia, and smaller delegations from the smaller island states like Tuvalu and Nauru.
There are representatives from highly populated countries like India and Kenya to sparsely populated countries like New Zealand.
The Commonwealth represents 30 per cent of the world’s population; people from every continent and ocean.
This diversity will be best demonstrated at Tuesday night’s Cultural evening.
Perhaps the New Zealand delegation will teach us their Haka made famous by their football team
Or South Africa will sing us their beautiful anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (pronounced n-ko-zi si-ke-le-le A-fri-ka) – God Bless Africa.
Diversity of Challenges
The diversity of our membership manifests itself in the diversity of challenges we face as Nations.
For example 90 per cent of Commonwealth nations are less developed and small states.
One of the key challenges they face is poverty minimization.
Certainly the march of globalization has forged a new role for the Commonwealth in protecting the interest of small states and assisting them to adjust to a new world paradigm.
One of life’s great ironies is that we live in a world where global income is more than $31 trillion a year, yet 1.2 billion people still earn less than $1 a day.
80 percent of the wealth goes to the 15 percent of the people that live in the developed world.
20 percent of the wealth goes to the 85 percent of the people that live in the developing world.
Poverty is the source of hunger and ill health, poor educational outcomes and unemployment.
Even more worryingly poverty can lead to disempowerment.
It is impossible for individuals, family units and the nations to control their future when they are shackled by poverty.
Over the next three days many participants will be looking at how we can employ entrepreneurship to alleviate poverty.
Intertwined with this will be the issue of redressing the imbalance in the world’s resources and closing the divide between developed and less developed nations.
It would be remiss of me, at this meeting of Commonwealth Nations, not to mention the problem of HIV/AIDS.
There is common recognition that HIV/AIDS is a health problem.
But it is also a development problem.
Throughout the world each day approximately 14,000 new infections occur, almost half of them among young people.
Commonwealth Heads of Government have declared HIV/AIDS to be both a global and Commonwealth emergency.
It is decimating our workforce, creating large numbers of orphans, exacerbating poverty and increasing pressure on health and social services.
In a moment I will discuss the various types of entrepreneurship.
One type is public entrepreneurship, defined by the fact that social capital not profit is its main driver.
New initiatives that help stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic are outstanding examples of public entrepreneurship.
They fall well within the gambit of this conference.
In Australia and other developed nations the HIV epidemic may be under control but we face a different set of challenges.
In recent decades we have gone from a baby boom to a baby bust.
People are living longer healthier lives and fertility rates are falling.
In Australia in 1967 the average number of children per couple was 3.5.
Today the average is 1.75 and falling.
As a nation we are not even reproducing ourselves.
By 2042 it is estimated that almost one quarter of the Australian population will be of retirement age.
The workforce will have fallen by almost ten per cent.
This means we need to ensure that those people who are fit and able to work are engaged to their full potential.
We cannot afford to have people being under utilized.
Helping young people to start their own businesses is one way we can assist them to make a full contribution to the economy.
Another key challenge for Australians is bridging the divide between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Australians have worse social outcomes than non-indigenous Australians across a range of measures including:
- Life expectancy
- Infant mortality
- Employment, and
Since 2001 the Australian Government has funded First Australian Business, which assists young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, establish or develop a business.
This has been a wonderful success.
I often tell other Members of Parliament about Anthony Czygan (Sigan) better known to his mates as Simmo, from Malak in the Northern Territory.
He is the proprietor of Simmo’s Aboriginal Fishing Adventures and a participant of First Australian Business.
Since Simmo took part in the program he has significantly increased his business demand and has even employed more staff.
It total First Australian Business is supporting 75 young business and many of the participants are with us today.
I encourage you all to learn about their good work during the course of the conference.
Finally an issue, which all Commonwealth Nations share in common, is the need to empower young people.
By this I am referring to the need to reverse the increasing social and political exclusion of young people from participating in decision-making on issues that affect them and the lack of engagement of young people in public affairs.
My predecessor, Dr David Kemp, once said that the role of young people is often over looked.
We refer to them as our future when the reality is they are the here and now.
I commend the Commonwealth Youth Program for the work they have done in this respect.
The program has a mandate to works towards a society where young women and men are empowered to develop their potential, creativity and skills as productive and dynamic members of their societies.
The Youth Program has also been wonderfully supportive of Creating Common Wealth.
They have sponsored many young people to attend and provided experience facilitators.
But more importantly they have brought their wealth of knowledge about the needs of young Commonwealth citizens to the table.
I would like to thank them for their support.
My purpose in discussing the different challenges we, as nations, face is to highlight a common solution – entrepreneurship.
A good beginning point for discussing entrepreneurship is a definition.
The etymology of the word lies in the French verb “entreprendre” meaning to undertake.
It was initially used in the sixteenth century by the French Army to refer to those who undertook military expeditions.
By the end of the seventeenth century it was being used to describe those people who built equipment for the army and had become synonymous with the notions of risk and innovation.
Contemporary definitions have focused on identifying the core characteristics that comprise entrepreneurship.
- Identifying and pursuing opportunity
- Innovation and creativity
- Attitude to resources
- Pursuit of growth
- Creating value
Personally I like this broad based definition because it is flexible enough to encompasses the many variety of entrepreneurs we see if life and most of whom are represented here.
For example the most commonly recognized form of entrepreneurship is economic or commercial entrepreneurship.
This entails the creation of organizations for the purpose for wealth creation.
On Wednesday we will hear from Brad Lancken, co-founder of MYTEK, an Australian company that provides online technical support for computer users.
We will also being hearing from Peter Holmes-a-Court, founder of Black Row Productions, an international entertainment company know owned by SFX Entertainment.
Both Peter and Brad are exemplary role models for all young people who are looking to start their own business.
Another type of entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship.
This is distinguished by its purpose – to generate profits that are then wholly used to fulfill a social objective.
- Not-for-profit community organizations
- Community businesses, and
- Regional trusts
I have already mentioned that new initiatives to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic might fall into this category.
But perhaps the best Commonwealth example of social entrepreneurship comes from Bangladesh.
In 1976 an economist named Mohammed Yunis loaned 42 artisans 62 cents each.
This tiny amount enabled them to buy their materials and they were then able to sell their products in the market.
This was one of the first examples of micro-credit.
It led to the formation of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which specializes in loans to people who face barriers to gaining conventional credit.
Today, more than 8 million people in more than 58 countries get micro-credit loans.
And the evidence shows that for Grameen borrowers one third have escaped poverty.
Perhaps the least recognized type of entrepreneurship is public entrepreneurship.
This occurs within public institutions and organizations and has the creation of social capital, not profit, as the main motivator.
It is about helping public institutions become more responsive to their customers, clients and communities
On Tuesday we will hear from the Hon John Tamihere MP, New Zealand Minister for Youth Affairs, Statistics, Land Information, Maori Affairs, and for Small Business.
With so many responsibilities he should be able to provide insights into all aspects of public life but especially entrepreneurship in the public sector.
The strength of this Conference is the diversity of the participants’ background.
Not only are there representatives from a plethora of nations, but there are also are representatives from the business sector, community organizations and governments.
As I said last night forming strong bonds between these stakeholders will be crucial to driving successful outcomes from this conference.
But as you can imagine significant work has already been conducted into entrepreneurship.
What sets Creating Common Wealth apart from all the other research, conferences and publications its is focus on youth.
Young people have a natural disposition for entrepreneurship.
When we think about those defining characteristics of entrepreneurship:
- Risk taking
- Pursuing opportunity
These are characteristics also synonymous with youth.
It is such a natural fit.
Our youth really do have the potential to be the greatest entrepreneurs that we have ever seen.
Having said this, it is important to recognize that young people are going to need every ounce of their entrepreneurial skills negotiate a path in a rapidly changing world.
When my generation grew up our transition through life was stable – there were defined trades and professions and clear career choices.
Today’s youth are moving through a world of occupational quicksand.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers in Botswana.
The Indian special minister for information and communications technologies, Minister Mahajan (ma-ha-jarn) who addressed us said:
… my father used to tell me that experience is an asset; I tell my child that experience is redundant. My child tells me that experience is a burden and that the job ads of tomorrow will say experienced people need not apply.
Building youth entrepreneurship skills is also about building our youth for the future.
We are providing them with the essential life skills they need to successfully navigate the transition to independence.
One of the great ironies about Creating Common Wealth is that we are brought together by a shared history to talk about our future.
But it is clear that what ever challenges our respective nations face one prospective solution is to promote entrepreneurship.
And there is no one better to carry this legacy forward than our youth.
And for the young people, please remember, that through entrepreneurship you can affect change.
Change in your communities.
Change for your countries.
And change across the Commonwealth of Nations.