Speech at the Indigenous Business Australia NAIDOC Week Breakfast
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I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
I also acknowledge elders here with us today, and I want to thank you Theresa (Sainty), for your welcome to country.
I would also like to acknowledge:
- Dr Dawn Casey (Chair of Indigenous Business Australia),
- Ian Trust (Deputy Chair of Indigenous Business Australia),
- Chris Fry (Chief Executive of IBA),
- Jody Broun (Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples),
- Warren Mundine (CEO of GenerationOne),
- Tom Calma,
- Mick Dodson, and
- Cassy O’Connor (Tasmanian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs).
I know the Canadian Consul General is also with us this morning – I had the pleasure of attending the World Indigenous Housing Conference last month in Vancouver. It’s good to see this relationship continuing to prosper.
I want to thank Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) for asking me to be here today in NAIDOC Week.
It’s a pleasure to join you here in Hobart.
NAIDOC Week is a significant event on our calendar – a national celebration of the contribution made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Right around the country this week, thousands of people are taking part in hundreds of events to celebrate Indigenous cultures.
In Rockingham in WA, there’s a Family Fun Day. In Broome, the Deadly Sista Girlz are constructing a Reconciliation Wall.
In Milingimbi, the annual Ramingining and Milingimbi NAIDOC Cup in basketball and AFL will be hotly contested.
And here in Tassie, local events are being held from Hobart to Launceston, Devonport to Goodwood, Moonah to Dunalley.
This week is a celebration – but it is also a cause for reflection.
The story of NAIDOC Week is one of struggle and of determination – for recognition, for rights and for respect for Aboriginal people in this nation of ours.
A struggle for a place in a shared nation.
The theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week – The Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on – speaks powerfully to that history.
It speaks to the struggle for recognition.
It speaks to determination to achieve a rightful place.
And it speaks of the spirit that drives us all forward – to a future where rights are realised and the special place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hold in our nation is recognised and respected.
Partnerships for change
If you will forgive me a little poetry, it’s that spirit which fills this room.
A spirit of courage and determination to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people take their place in our economy.
That Indigenous people are afforded the opportunity of economic development and of employment.
We know that today, Indigenous Australians do not have access to the same opportunities as non-Indigenous Australians.
There remains a gap – in life expectancy, in schooling, and in employment.
Indigenous Australians of working age are a third less likely to be employed than non-Indigenous Australians.
We have made some important progress – in 1994, Indigenous Australians were only half as likely to have a job.
But we still have a long way to go.
And this is where the spirit of courage and determination is making a real difference.
Indigenous Business Australia is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enterprise around the country.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 84 per cent of small businesses in Australia succeed after the first year. 73 per cent succeed after the second.
In comparison IBA business customer success rates are 90 per cent for the first year, and 80 per cent after the second year.
IBA has supported Ocean Omega’s, a manufacturer of skin creams and lotions that were created from Indigenous knowledge of the medicinal properties of mutton bird and fish oils.
Ocean Omega’s products are sold in shops all over Tasmania and are now also available in states right across Australia.
On Flinders Island, we have supported the purchase of the bakery by the Flinders Island Aboriginal Association. With training to make them work-ready, 11 Indigenous people are now employed by the bakery.
Across the country, people are working together to carve out a place in our economy for Indigenous Australians.
At the corporate end we have a great partner in the Commonwealth Bank.
Since 2009, the Commonwealth Bank has provided 350 employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander job seekers, and they provide 80 traineeship positions each year for Year 11 and 12 students.
The program gives young people valuable workplace experience and creates a career pathway for Indigenous high school students.
Many graduates of the program have gone on to build a career for themselves at the Commonwealth Bank.
Through the Indigenous Employment Program, we are supporting other corporate partners to providing training and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians:
- The Coles First Step Program is providing pre-employment training and employment places for 205 Indigenous job seekers across Australia.
- Woolworths is placing 100 Indigenous Australians in jobs in their stores.
- Australia Post is providing 130 placements for Indigenous people.
And the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC) is a remarkable success story — it’s good to have Natalie Walker here with us this morning.
With 161 corporate and government members and 133 certified Indigenous suppliers, the Council has generated almost $26 million in contracts and about $22 million in transactions between its members and certified Indigenous suppliers.
These suppliers employ around 480 Indigenous people, full-time.
We’re thrilled to be continuing our support for AIMSC, with the recent announcement of additional funding of $7.5 million over the next three years.
There’s a spirit driving this change – and even more importantly, driving the creation of new opportunities for Indigenous people, real opportunities for real change.
And it’s this same spirit we bring to our work to build a movement for change to our nation’s Constitution, our founding document, so that it rightly and not before time, recognises the special place of the First Australians in our nation.
Recognises the special place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have in our nation, and their contribution both past and present to the fabric of our nation and our national identity.
Recognises the deep connection Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to our country, to their land.
And creates for all of us a shared future.
In the heart of the nation and at the core of our democracy, we seek to challenge what we know.
And because it is all of our democracy it will take the will and the want of the people to make this change.
It will take leaders willing to help build the movement for change and to build the community consensus we will need.
It will take bipartisanship.
And yet leaders alone can’t make this change.
Like the spirit and the movement of the Tent Embassy, a few individuals can’t be all the change we need.
But we need change, to ensure that the founding document of our nation reflects the Australia we know today.
One which is not silent about our First Peoples.
Which recognises their special place in our nation.
And which provides a foundation for the future, a shared future, for all of us.
Of course, like the spirit of the Tent Embassy itself, a few individuals can’t be all the change we need.
But they can inspire people to create that change.
That’s the challenge we set ourselves – and each of you – now.
To build among the people the change we want to see.
Only with a movement of Australians, across the length and breadth of the nation, will we be able to win a referendum to change our
We have a foundation for change.
But we have to build on that foundation for change to become real.
A fundamental change that will reshape our foundations as a nation.
That will stand us in good stead and on firm ground for the future.
This is the task at hand – to build the foundations for change, among our people and in practice.
We can do that by celebrating, as we do this week.
We can do that by sharing, at work, in schools, at barbeques across the country, speaking with friends and neighbours, and making the case for change.
We can do that by working very practically, with government, with business and with Indigenous people – including with Indigenous Business Australia – to carve out the place for Indigenous people.
In our workplaces, in our businesses, through our purchasing, through our business lending, and through our own investment.
NAIDOC Week is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and the people who have and continue to contribute so much to our nation.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on where we have come from.
But it’s a vitally important opportunity to look to the future. To look around us and identify what it is that we can harness to drive us forward.
We can harness goodwill.
We can harness opportunities and investment.
And we can harness the courage and determination of people across the country to work together for change.
To see the gap closed between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
To see more Indigenous Australians with the skills and the opportunity to get a good job, or to start their own business.
And to see the change – in people and in practice – that we all want to see.