The University of New South Wales (UNSW) held a celebration for Indigenous Business Month (IBM) last Thursday hosting prestigious guests, Indigenous business owners and local community members.

The day involved two sessions of short film debuts, presentations and two book launches, as well as four workshops including design making, tax management, IP and the law, and Indigenous business strategies and pathways.

A market also showcased 20 Indigenous business stalls and sat opposite the Nura Gili Indigenous Centre, drawing people from all walks of life.

Indigenous Professional Services Managing Director Kristal Kinsela-Christie was a keynote speaker and co-host of the event, sharing the role with Ngakkan Nyaagu co-founder Liam Ridgeway. Ms Kinsela-Christie also launched her book Supplier Diversity How in the last session of the day.

Ms Kinsela-Christie felt the event was very empowering.

“Indigenous Business Month is an important time of the year, and an opportunity to share the stories and success of people doing amazing things in their respective sectors and industries.”

“These stories of success give inspiration, hope, and demonstrate that anything is possible,” she wrote in an article online.

Ms Kinsela-Christie noted the power of attendees such as Phil and Cherie Thompson from Native Secrets, a native skincare and oil brand from Dubbo, NSW, Mayrah Sonter from 33 Creative who has launched The Real podcast series, UNSW graduate Ben Eisokovich who co-founded the Indigenous Finance and Business Conference, Debra Beale who runs her design business Deboriginal and young pilot Joseph Masters who is flying for QANTAS whilst studying.

One of the prominent forces driving the creation of the event was UNSW Indigenous Business Education Program Manager, Rebecca Harcourt.

Ms Harcourt said the event gave opportunity for business owners, both small and corporate, to make connections and created an approachable avenue into business for students.

“This year with the overarching theme being Indigenous Ingenuity we were keen to create a platform that reflects the breadth and depth of Indigenous business ingenuity, centring Indigenous voices and expertise at the heart of every session,” Ms Harcourt said.

“What is so unique about the Indigenous business sector is the genuine collective, supportive approach to create real impact in community, it is grassroots up. It’s a diversified sector which comes back to that collaboration that is underpinned by storytelling and social impact.”

Ms Harcourt said she believes it was significant for the University to provide a platform for Indigenous Business Month that was Aboriginal-led.

“It’s so important institutions like our university continue to give back through investing in Indigenous students, community, colleagues … [it] has a far-reaching impact across communities,” Ms Harcourt said.

“Through IBM @ UNSW we provide the platform but listen and engage further, the day was a testament through investment [to] the right way and working the right way – there is so much impact and how we engage and approach relationships is key.”

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the answers, self-determination is vital. As allies we need to continue to invest [and] support so their voices are heard and they are in decision-making roles at every level.”

Ms Harcourt also commended the talent who presented during the sessions.

“The University was so privileged to have such an exceptional line up of speakers. Several have keynoted at international and national conferences, they are trailblazers.”

“Every day I continue to learn from the grace and dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: my friends, colleagues and collaborators. As we experienced on Thursday, every speaker whether presenting to ten, 100 people or 1,000, every speaker stood in their truth speaking with poise, depth, respect [and] humour,” Ms Harcourt said.

“[They were] truly honouring generations before them, [as well as] present and the future generations, generously inviting us all to walk alongside.”

Both Ms Harcourt and Ms Kinsela-Christie applauded Mr Thomas Mayor who was a key speaker during the final session, and who launched his book Finding the Heart of the Nation.

“Thomas was breath-taking, it was phenomenal. As always with him, he was extraordinary, wise and calm but clear. You felt the strength of the people and the need to hold onto that,” Ms Harcourt said.

Ms Kinsela-Christie had similar sentiments, writing:

“Thomas Mayor had me in tears as he recited word for word the Uluru Statement From the Heart, from his heart. His story and journey are absolutely incredible, and made me reflect on how our advocacy to gain public support on this is so important.”

Overall, the event was an immense success and has paved the way for the hope it will become a prominent part of not only Indigenous Business Month celebrations at UNSW but a routine part of campus life.

By Rachael Knowles