As we celebrate NAIDOC Week, it's timely to look closely at some extraordinary success stories of Indigenous entrepreneurs in regional communities who are harnessing their strengths in creativity and innovation.
Their gains are even more remarkable when we consider that Indigenous entrepreneurs tend to start off with less business experience, fewer qualifications, lower capital resources and significant restrictions to financial wealth.
Such entrepreneurship may be the answer to Indigenous unemployment rates, sitting at just under 46 per cent Australia-wide, and 35 per cent in remote areas. So what drives their success? There's a common thread running through their stories.
Maali Minjarra, one such regional entrepreneur, started a tourism venture two years ago. Today, she employs 20 full-time Aboriginal staff who assist as guides for city folk visiting the Greater Shepparton region. Keira Birrani expanded a grassroots painting start-up by selling local community artwork to visiting tourists and locals. She now has nine Aboriginal painters sharing their creative arts and redistributes profits to the local Aboriginal community in Wodonga.
Stories of successful collaborations are everywhere. Jedda Monaro started a unique glass-blowing business. Lowanna Ngarra, a fellow Aboriginal and homewares retailer, promoted Jedda's creations online. Jedda's sales multiplied, and he now exports his sculptures to eight countries, employs over a dozen local Aboriginals and redistributes his gains to the local community.
These Indigenous entrepreneurs are successful due to their entrepreneurial orientation or self-leadership strategies, which are focused on creativity and productivity. Their success involves risk-taking, proactiveness and innovation. Central to this is the tendency of these entrepreneurs to be creative. Creativity is simply the ability of imagination; the tendency to generate or recognise ideas, alternatives or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, or entertaining people. Community-based, grassroots commerce within social entrepreneurial structures seems to be the key ingredient.
Creativity like theirs enables Indigenous entrepreneurs to find path-breaking discoveries, by being imaginative, innovative, original, and overflowing with ideas. These ideas can be harnessed, invigorated and celebrated. Just consider the Yidaki, an Aboriginal wind instrument commonly known as the didjeridu - a beautiful variety of creativity, imagination, novelty and innovation.
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