The author Jay Edwards

Jay Edwards: Indigenous entrepreneurship is all around us

The author Jay Edwards

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Jay Edwards is a proud Palawa man. He is studying economics at University of NSW

Indigenous business is at the forefront of change and innovation in Australia. Indigenous vision and entrepreneurship give our people the power to enrich our culture for ourselves and share it with the world.

Over the years we have had countless black performers travel across the world to show their dances, body paintings, language and culture. We have Indigenous people sharing their innovations, ideas, thoughts and success. Our Indigenous business entrepreneurs are leading the charge to make Australia a powerful economy, whether it be an uncle selling his paintings or the CEO of a much larger enterprise.

Trade and tourism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture is now a big proponent in Australia. This brings many international markets to our doorstep. Partnerships are being formed across the world: New Zealand, Canada, the USA and other countries are coming together for Indigenous business. I have the great privilege to be a part of one of these partnerships.

During the first week of October, the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association Canada International Conference is held in Vancouver. This year the conference is titled “Building sustainable communities by strengthening international networks”. I am attending with an Indigenous delegation from many first nations across Australia.

During the conference we will participate in workshops about the relationships between business and Indigenous communities, with the goal to achieve an international sustainable community to meet the needs of current and future problems facing Indigenous people. We are seeking to create a network between Indigenous communities from across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and other countries to share our experiences from our respective cultures and to learn from each other. In previous conferences, we have made progressive changes to ensure that education in business is as accessible as possible and is relevant to Indigenous communities. The conference engages with industry professionals, teachers, students and general community interested in change.

I have found my way to the conference through my studies in business and economics at the University of New South Wales Business School. I have also mentored high school students as part of an Indigenous business program run in conjunction with the UNSW Business School and Nura Gili (UNSW’s Indigenous support unit), forming long-term relationships that continue to this day. Throughout this program, I have observed the passion and desire of young Indigenous people to further their business prospects to eventually study or transform their business idea into a reality.

I have also been involved in a variety of conferences, programs, industry events, and community engagements designed to educate Indigenous people in business dynamics. I have been invited to speak and share my own story at many of these events and conferences. It is important to engage with as many people as possible to make a change in people’s lives for the better. At a recent industry event held by Indigenous Accountants Australia there were multiple students and professionals learning from each other in order to pave the way for change in their workplace or school. During these events, I spoke about my history and my family.

We are proud Palawa people from Central Tasmania, but our traditional family name was lost after the atrocities in Tasmania during the Black War in the early 1800s. My family fled to Flinders Island and then emigrated to New Zealand where our family grew to include Māori iwis in Taranaki. Now my family is all over Australia and New Zealand, but we are still connected through Tasmania and our traditional land. We all have cousins, uncles and aunties across Australia and the world being their own boss.

Indigenous entrepreneurship is all around us now. It’s benefiting our lives and our communities. This is why business and innovation is my passion. I want to see Indigenous people have the ability and knowledge to ensure we are successful in all areas of life. I value the connection between culture, business and education. They are crucial pathways to provide tools to foster our business capabilities.

This article was first published on 2 October by Guardian Australia as part of their collaborative partnership with IndigenousX

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