A one-of-a-kind space for community, connection and collaboration, the inaugural Indigenous Emerging Business Forum (IEBF) will host both emerging Indigenous businesses and industry leaders.

Hosted by Telstra Business Technology Centre (TBTC) Perth North, the forum is estimated to see between 350 and 400 businesses participate in the event on October 23.

The IEBF will have a focus on technology and connectivity—aspects which often leave emerging Indigenous businesses behind, according to TBTC Enterprise Group Manager, John O’Driscoll.

“[TBTC Perth North is] trying to showcase the latest technology to these Aboriginal businesses, because some of these businesses are not up to speed with the technology that’s available,” O’Driscoll said.

“We’re trying to put them on a level playing field with non-Aboriginal businesses.”

The forum’s mission is to showcase the strength, diversity and opportunity that Aboriginal businesses bring to industry.

“What they get is a network away from traditional Aboriginal chambers or forums or affiliates, in an open forum business environment,” O’Driscoll said.

“Doesn’t matter if you’re an executive or a small business owner, you’ll be rubbing shoulders together at the same place at the same time.

“We’re trying to get Aboriginal businesses to be showcased back towards business leaders to drive Aboriginal procurement.”

“We are trying to support the Indigenous business community by linking up our contacts to drive that spend.”

The seed from which the forum sprouted is a “little bit of a secret”, with all to be revealed at the IEBF opening ceremony. O’Driscoll did say, however, that the idea originally manifested when he was up north in the Kimberley.

“I went up north and I saw artists that were painting art for a person … and getting lodgement for it from a hotel,” he said.

O’Driscoll asked the person what the paintings were selling for, and discovered they were being sold for up to $10,000.

“I went and spoke to the artist and I said, ‘How much are you getting for that?’ And they said, ‘A packet of smokes and I get to stay here [in this hotel] for a week.’ That’s what started it.

“I thought if they had internet … or e-commerce, or if we could help them, that money could go back to community to benefit the community. They’re getting exploited.”

Returning from his trip, O’Driscoll set things in motion for the inaugural IEBF. Due to COVID-19 the original date was postponed, and the event was scheduled to take place in October instead.

On the day, attendees will have access to an app available exclusively for the event. It will outline the forum’s events including the keynote speakers, and will enable users to access an online voting system for the awards that will be presented throughout the day.

The award categories include:

  • Businesswoman of the year
  • Outstanding impact of the year
  • Emerging businesswoman of the year
  • Sports ambassador of the year
  • Community ambassador of the year.

Adding to the day’s entertainment will be an auction where attendees will bid against each other for time with past and current sporting players from the AFL, NBL and Hockeyroos.

After the event, TBTC Perth North will send forum attendees a list of people who want to be contacted for business opportunities to assist with connections post-event. There are also plans for TBTC Perth North and NIT to co-develop a database of Indigenous businesses.

With the IEBF just four weeks away, O’Driscoll is working hard to ensure each business at the forum is showcased to the best of their ability.

“I think elevating any business is important … but why this is extremely important is there’s a lot of activity happening within WA and a lot of the opportunities are given to east coast companies, which means the money is leaving WA,” O’Driscoll said.

“So, this is a two-pronged approach: we can benefit the Indigenous community by strengthening Indigenous business, and also keep the money in the state which is going to stimulate—not just Aboriginal jobs—but jobs for everybody.”

The Indigenous Emerging Business Forum is at Crown Perth on Friday October 23. Entry is free. For more information, contact: iebf@tbtcperthnorth.com.au.

By Hannah Cross


*Editor’s note: NIT is the proud media sponsor for IEBF 2020.