John Janke, co-chair of NAIDOC week, used to hate the annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
"Growing up, that was always a week that I hated because you were ridiculed about that week. I remember growing up at school and kids would call you names, too," he said.
"I was the first black kid to graduate from my school at Marist. I've got two older sisters. We were the first black kids in the primary school that we went to. So for Canberra, it was a real shock," he said.
"There was ignorance about Aboriginal people."
After nearly three decades in the public service trying to create change but mostly just "dealing with bureaucracy", Mr Janke became co-owner of multimillion-dollar construction company Rork Projects.
"I'd sort of grown a bit frustrated with working in the public services. The older you get, the more cynical you get," he said.
"This is an opportunity to, through being an Indigenous construction company, change people's opinions. To employ people, to have mutually sort of beneficial opportunities for other black businesses and projects."
The business engages other Indigenous companies as suppliers and subcontractors.
They also offer to speak to clients about Aboriginal culture and history, and try to add elements like artwork from local Indigenous artists into projects.
"We want to build a relationship with our corporate clients to actually change the narrative, have a real good discussion about Aboriginal culture, on the history of peoples and maybe change some perceptions," he said.
Mr Janke said the first way Rork worked to change stereotypes about Aboriginal people was by being a "good black business."
Despite taking on projects around the $20 million mark, Mr Janke still feels clients can underestimate the company.
"If you're an Indigenous business you're given lower opportunities ... because they just don't think you have the capability to do it," he said.
"So you don't get the high-end projects, you get the projects that are a couple of hundred thousand dollars or a few million. We have the capability to do projects over $20 million, but they seem to be extended to non-Indigenous companies."
EXTRA READ: Rediscovering Canberra this NAIDOC week
Despite some barriers, Mr Janke wants to encourage other Indigenous people to start their own enterprises.
"There's also probably a perception that it's too hard because non-Indigenous businesses don't procure what I do or they're not interested in Indigenous businesses," he said.
"It's changed. People go, I can actually be Aboriginal and be proud and be an Aboriginal business. And there are opportunities for me to do that because it's celebrated now with corporates.
"Before you probably had to be just be a good business and maybe not be an Indigenous business, but now I think it's changed."
He said as young people opt for workplaces that match their values, more organisations were developing Indigenous procurement targets. "Social change is driven by corporate and community and I think [Indigenous businesses are] going to be huge over the next couple of years," he said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: