Monash launches Australia’s first Indigenous business leadership degree

Karl Briscoe is a proud Kuku Yalanji man and a successful business leader. As CEO of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP), he advocates the importance of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce in closing the Indigenous health outcomes gap.

But he wants to learn how to be an even more effective Indigenous leader so he can optimise NAATSIHWA’s ability to influence and progress Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ economic futures.

Karl is one of 14 students to enrol in Australia’s first Indigenous-focused Master of Indigenous Business Leadership, at Monash University. Through the program, he will connect with a national network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Business Leaders all seeking to enhance their leadership skills with their communities.

Karl said he chose the Monash Masters of Indigenous Business Leadership over a regular MBA degree because of its up-to-date relevance to his work.

“I was very picky in selecting a course. I looked through the modules of courses on offer to make sure I was able to really apply those learnings back into my organisation and into my future career,” he said.

“The course is on the cusp of Aboriginal terms of reference of how we do business with organisations and includes the latest, evidence-based research. That’s really one of the major differences between a mainstream MBA and what we’re doing.”

Mundanara Bayles is the Managing Director of Australian BlackCard, a cultural competency training program She also enrolled in the master’s degree and says it will elevate both her work with multinational corporate clients as well as the indigenous community.

“This program enables me to add value to the work that I do with our BlackCard clients – ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, PwC,” said Ms Bayles, “My family and the broader Aboriginal community will also benefit from the knowledge and skills that I bring back as we strive towards more Aboriginal people participating in business and being that example for the younger generation.

Professor Jacinta Elston, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous) and Head of the William Cooper Institute, said Monash had the longest history of engagement in Indigenous higher education in Australia.

“We’re proud of this legacy, but we knew we could do more. We recognised many Indigenous leaders have had very limited opportunities to engage in formal education and business training,” Professor Elston said.

“As a result, we created the Master of Indigenous Business Leadership to cultivate the next generation of Indigenous business leaders to shape Australia’s public, private and community sectors.”

The Master’s program takes the core elements of a traditional MBA, tailors it for leading as an Indigenous person, and is delivered face-to-face in intensive mode, allowing students to participate without interrupting their jobs, family or communities for long periods of time.

Dean and Head of Monash Business School, Professor Simon Wilkie, said Monash Business School is proud of what this program can achieve and honoured to be welcoming the first cohort of students. Over the next decade, Professor Wilkie aims to see the program empowering hundreds of Indigenous business leaders with postgraduate qualifications, who will produce impactful benefits to indigenous communities.

The Business School’s Director of Equity, Diversity and Social Inclusion, Associate Professor Nick McGuigan, said it was fitting that this course was being launched in 2021 as Monash celebrated 60 years of making change, and the 2021 Reconciliation Week theme: More than a word.

“Reconciliation is not just about talking, it is about taking bold action. At Monash, if we don’t like something the way it is, or if we see new ways to embrace the future, we’re not afraid to go out and change it. Two years ago we decided to take the first steps towards putting right something we feel is fundamentally wrong. Launching the program is our first step in strengthening fierce leadership amongst Australia’s Indigenous businesses,” said Associate Professor McGuigan.

As a director with Indigenous recruitment agency Ergon, student Kyra Galante is excited about making a meaningful impact with her newfound knowledge.

“It means we are ready to contribute to our communities, to bring them into their new economy to take their rightful place to care for their families, land, spirituality and ancestral stories. That is true self-determination.”