At the Supply Nation Connect event a few months ago, I was shocked to hear of an Indigenous businessman saying publicly to his audience that ‘just because I’m an Aboriginal businessman doesn’t mean I have to employ Aboriginal People’. Well then, feel free to go into the mainstream business world and win as many mainstream contracts as you like.
When your Aboriginality factor alone has given you a ‘free kick’ why wouldn’t you want to extend the benefits back to your own people? The very people who are depending on us as the business leaders, the employers, the influences of change to help them are still waiting in hope. If we are not going to do the job for them, then who is?
I understand that some businesses are too small to employ anyone but one or two founders. On the other hand, when you own a business or have entered into a Joint Venture with the potential to provide good numbers of Indigenous jobs (especially entry-level jobs), then you have a cultural and moral obligation to your people whether you like it or not. Especially when those contract opportunities have come about through an Indigenous Procurement Policy or RAP plan or Indigenous Contract Spend or any of the other vehicles in place to accelerate the Indigenous business sector. Those policies and initiatives weren’t written with the intent to create a couple of Indigenous millionaires but to create jobs and generate wealth across a disadvantaged population of people, our people.
Here is an excerpt from a recent media interview I did. The full interview will be published soon but it gives some weight to my opinion:
Q. Why is Indigenous employment an area of a particular personal passion for you?
I focus so much on this area because I know how much a job means to any individual. The improvement in self-esteem, feeling apart of society, having a purpose, moving out of poverty, providing for your family and the positive flow-on effects to all areas of your life and that around it simply by having a job. That is the case with all human beings but those elements are multiplied by 100 times for an Indigenous person. This is especially the case if they have grown up in abject poverty, been through the justice system, been marginalised, disadvantaged, discriminated against their whole lives. I understand, I get it because I come from that life. I have been blessed with an ability to take all the negatives that have happened to me and turn them into positives. I have taken my lived experiences, learnt from them and asked myself what I can do with that awareness and information. How can I use my experiences and knowledge that not many other people in the mainstream world have about my people and our lives, our adversities, our challenges but also our strengths, our resilience and culture? I answered my own questions with this answer, I know I have the solutions to a massive problem, I know I have the ability to create change, I know I have knowledge that not many other people have, a have deep empathy for my people, I know I have the power of my old people behind me and I don’t ever want to get to the end of my life and have to face those people and make excuses about why I didn’t use my abilities to help my people. I’ve had to deal with discrimination (still to today), road blocking, white-anting, negative comments, judgement and everything else that comes with a level of success or feelings of being a threat but they all need to know that I’m not stopping, I’m making my way forward despite what they say because I have a mission to complete. I have an army of people behind me who need me to create change for them.