Launch of Indigenous Business Centre signals new model for Indigenous education and engagement

The Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership – the first of its kind in Australia – was launched today at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Business School.

The Centre will be a home for education, engagement and research to support the self-determined growth of Indigenous businesspeople, companies, and communities around the country.

The name Dilin Duwa means “everlasting flow” in the Woi Wurrung language of the Wurundjeri people, on whose lands the Centre is located. It signifies the convergence of three streams of activities – teaching/programs, research and engagement – into impact.

Director, Associate Professor Michelle Evans, said the Centre was committed to the pursuit of equality for Australia’s First Nations people in the economic life of our country.

“The best way for the university sector to improve Indigenous economic inclusion is to offer access to business education, no matter where people are located,” Associate Professor Evans said.

“The Indigenous business sector is a vibrant, diverse sector that spans across all industries and geographic locations of Australia. And it is growing, with Indigenous entrepreneurs and boards deciding where to position in the market and how to give back to Indigenous communities.”

The Centre will become a primary resource for governments and corporations, providing previously unavailable research and data to inform policy and provide insights into procurement and Indigenous engagement activities.

Earlier this year the Centre team, working with Indigenous Business Data Custodians and the Melbourne Institute, delivered Australia’s inaugural Indigenous Business Snapshot and developed the Indigenous Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (I-BLADE) 1.0, a project the Centre will continue developing.

The launch coincides with the announcement of two major partnerships with the Centre: Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), one of Australia’s leading bodies supporting Indigenous businesses, and the Minderoo Foundation.

IBA’s partnership is one of the largest it has signed with an educational institution. IBA’s Director of Community and Customer Experience, Arrernte woman Stella de Cos, said the Centre provided a new level of resourcing to support the rapid growth of Indigenous businesses.

“Entrepreneurship and building strong business skills provide a clear path to achieving financial success and economic independence for Indigenous Australians and our communities,” she said.

“Since 2014, IBA has supported the MURRA program, so this expansion to partner with regional programs, with a dedicated online platform, is another step towards our commitment for a nation in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are economically independent and an integral part of the economy.

“By supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs to build on their success, to contribute and grow business on country and within their own eco-systems, we can continue to foster the growth of a vibrant, sustainable Indigenous business sector, and true economic empowerment.”

Generation One, an initiative of Minderoo Foundation, has a mission to create employment parity with and for Indigenous Australians.

CEO Shelley Cable, a MURRA alumna, said the Dilin Duwa partnership would build on the University’s strong history of backing Indigenous entrepreneurs and increasing support available nationwide.

“The Indigenous business sector contributes billions of dollars to our economy, and demand for Indigenous goods and services continues to grow. Through Australia’s first Centre dedicated to Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs, the sector will be supported to reach new heights, resulting in meaningful progress towards Indigenous employment parity, led by self-determining Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses,” Ms Cable said.

Expanding on the foundations built by the award-winning MURRA Indigenous Business Program and the recent
online Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Business Leadership, the Centre will also be guided by an Indigenous Advisory Group made up of Indigenous business and leaders, including Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Di Kerr, Dr Blaze Kwaymullina and IBA’s Stella de Cos.

The Centre will follow Indigenous terms of reference to ensure cultural priorities and protocols are observed. Staffing and leadership are majority-Indigenous: Associate Professor Evans, Lecturer – Indigenous Communities Ash Francisco, Associate Lecturer – Indigenous Programs Mitchell Hibbens and Centre Manager Steven Clarke.

“My hope is that Dilin Duwa will provide a space where established Indigenous business owners, teachers, aspiring entrepreneurs, corporate organisations, and government can come together to realise the dream of an economically powerful Indigenous Australia,” Associate Professor Evans said.

The design concept for the Centre visualises the convergence of the three work streams: Research, Programs and Community Engagement, that flow within the overarching Centre.

Three outer circular clusters symbolise each stream linking pathways with the main inner circular cluster, that symbolises a meeting place as the Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership.

The swirling dotted pathways also allude to a two way learning process, creating a rippled effect circulating around the Centre and its work streams.

The design was created by Marcus Lee, a MURRA Alumnus, who was part of the first intake of the program.

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