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Stan Grant lambasts "the system" at NT business forum

David Prestipino -

Prominent media personality and First Nations advocate, Stan Grant has called for economic justice and redistribution of wealth at a prominent First Nations business forum in the Northern Territory.

Delivering a keynote address on Thursday at the Aboriginal Economic Development Forum, the award-winning journalist, author and TV host told business leaders and audience members the economic systems of the world's wealthiest countries - including Australia - were not designed to better distribute wealth equally.

"I've been all around the world as a reporter and there is one thing that's been abundantly clear... and that is the economy is destined," Grant said.

He said First Nations people had a right to never have to ask anyone for anything, given the wealth Australia has generated.

"That (wealth) has come out of this land, our land. But there's been a lot of wealth. And there hasn't been anywhere near enough justice," Grant said.

"And we wonder why we look around or hear about businesses doing well, we see more people going to universities, more about people empowerment, and that's how it should be.

"And yet, when students see that the gap doesn't close. Well, that's because the systems themselves are not designed for the gaps to close, because they are about wealth.

"They are not about justice, they are about the accumulation of wealth into the hands of a few.

"So how do we engage in a system that is not about justice, that is about wealth? And how do we do it our way?

"And that is part of our claims, our righteous claims for justice in our own land, it is our right. We cannot be in the welfare business ... but we have to be aware of building an Aboriginal elite, who exhibit the same tendencies of wealth, manipulation, and concentration that we see in other parts of the world."

Grant said a recent report by the International Labour Organisation showed wealth discrepancy against First Nations people in Australia was repeated the world over.

"Indigenous peoples are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty... 19 per cent of Indigenous peoples in the world live on less than $2 a day," he said.

"In the poorest countries, we see corruption of government, we see revolution and famine, and death.

"That's what I've seen the world over ... there is injustice. And the same applies to our country, where we are the most impoverished and imprisoned people in the country."

Grant said there was plenty of wealth creation in Australia that First Nations businesses should get an opportunity at leveraging.

"We know where the wealth is going. And we know that we find the injustice," he said.

"About 18 per cent of Indigenous adults, eight out of 10, have weekly incomes below the national average.

"And we are the poorest people; 36 per cent of indigenous households have weekly incomes in the bottom 25 per cent."

He also cited data from Oxfam over a four-year period after 2014, which indicated three of Australia's biggest corporations and 281 in total paid zero tax.

"We have more than enough wealth in our world. But the wealthy have no thirst or hunger for justice. And it kills us," he said.

"Inequality is deadly. We have a justice problem. And you and I know the people who die.

"I'm standing here today, I'll have to catch a flight at midday back to Sydney. But tonight, I have to make the trek back home to my to the country, back to my hometown, as I do far too often, to bury another cousin."

Hosted by the North Territory Indigenous Business Network, the three-day event - on Larrakia Country at the Darwin Convention Centre - is now in its 11th year and is one of Australia's premier Aboriginal economic development events, showcasing the diversity and growth of NT businesses.

The forum provides an opportunity for First Nation businesses from across the Top End to promote their products and services across a broad range of sectors and industries.

This year's theme of IT'S OUR BUSINESS reflects the importance of First Nations business enterprise ownership, self-determination and the sovereignty that can be achieved through economic empowerment.

Grant is one of several keynote speakers, along with entrepreneur and Kimberley business and Executive Chairman of the National Indigenous Times, Wayne Bergmann, Masterchef contestant Mindy Woods, who will talk about the significance of food, culture and Country, and Native American Business Association president Amanda Smith.

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