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Depending on where we live, we have worked in dual economies: in natural resources, via hunting and gathering, and in the waged economy. Our people have been the labour backbone of the pastoral and pearling industries, particularly in northern Australia, although forced removals, dislocation, truncated education, racism, and so on have erected significant barriers to our employment.

Many Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations exist, devoted to decreasing employment inequality and increasing employment opportunities for Indigenous people.

Successful enterprises

With good education and support, enterprising communities from Redfern to Gosford, Lakes Entrance to Eden and Oenpelli to Broome have set up businesses in the mining industry, catering and tourism, as employment consultants, and in the arts, media and the retail sectors.


people standing oustide of a shop

The business near Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges out of Melbourne was called 'Aboriginal Enterprises' 1956. Carter, Jeff, 1928-2010. NLA/13141. Photo courtesy of Jeff Carter’s estate.

In 1952, a time when racial protection and segregation were still the policies of the Australian government, Bill Onus, a political and cultural activist and entrepreneur, took a break from politics to set up a souvenir outlet called ‘Aborginal Enterprises’. From a small shop and factory based in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, Onus sold artefacts and furnishings designed and produced in the workshop at the rear of the shop, kangaroo skin rugs, imported bark paintings and didjeridus from Arnhem Land and a range of other small objects.

Enormously successful, the business operated until 1968, with Bill Onus touring extensively through Victoria as a travelling showman to present his wares and demonstrate boomerang-throwing, which he advocated as a national sport.

Bill Onus eventually returned to politics and in 1967 he became the first Aboriginal president of the Aborigines Advancement League (Victoria) and its representative on the Victorian Aborigines Welfare Board. He also served as Victorian director of the Aboriginal referendum movement, playing a leading role in the campaign for a 'Yes' vote at the 1967 referendum.

Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/onus-william-townsend-bill-11308.


man and woman standing in front of an artwork

Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council founder Michael McLeod with inaugural CEO Natalie Walker, Sydney. Photo courtesy Indigenous Newslines Magazine.

The Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC) was established in 2009 to help Indigenous businesses break into the corporate sector. The organisation encourages the growth of Indigenous Australian businesses by linking corporate and government purchasers with certified Indigenous suppliers of goods and services.

Chief executive officer Natalie Walker said after just two years of operation, AIMSC exceeded all expectations by recruiting one hundred and thirty corporate and government members and certifying one hundred and twenty Indigenous businesses.

In the first twenty one months of operation, AIMSC members awarded $22.631 million in contracts to certified Indigenous businesses.

‘This shows that Indigenous businesses can supply to the big end of town and that the big end of town wants to do business with Indigenous people,’ Walker says.

Source: www.indigenous.gov.au/.

group of men laying bricks

AEP Koori Job Ready training: Koori Job Ready in Construction students training at the Les Tobler Construction Centre. Photo © Australian Technology Park.

The Koori Job Ready program at the Australian Technology Park, trains and mentors Aboriginal people for the construction, hospitality, rail and aviation service industries. The program manages construction and hospitality courses at the Les Tobler Construction Centre and the Yaama Dhyiaan Hospitality School in Eveleigh.

Since the program began in 2006, more than 850 employment opportunities have been created for Aboriginal men and women.

Source: www.atp.com.au/About/Our-Businesses/Koori-Job-Ready.


woman standing next to an artwork with a baby in her arms

Papunya Tula artist Katherine Nakamarra and Rochelle, with one of Katherine’s paintings. Photo © Papunya Tula.

Papunya Tula Artists is entirely owned and directed by traditional Aboriginal people from the Western Desert, predominantly of the Luritja/Pintupi language groups. In 2012 the organisation celebrated its 40th year of operation. It has forty nine shareholders and now represents around one hundred and twenty artists. The company derives its name from Papunya, a settlement 240 km north-west of Alice Springs.

Indigenous art centres build capacity, maintain culture and generate income and employment opportunities in remote Indigenous communities.


woman seated at a table with plates of food

Dale Chapman, Aboriginal chef and founder of The Dilly Bag Bush Tucker Products & Learning Programs. Photo © Dale Chapman, www.thedillybag.com.au/Welcome.htm.

Dale Chapman on why she started the Dilly Bag:

'It was dream of mine to have my own business and the concept of sharing my traditional teachings with my contemporary training as a chef was the way to go, and a positive way of informing the wider community about the oldest living culture in the world, Australian Aboriginal culture and its people.

Sharing of food and yarning about the past and the future is a positive step to reconciliation and understanding.

My main focus is working towards and improved lifestyle for the Indigenous people they are my main focus, I want to share my trade and knowledge with all the future generations so that together we will grow strong and achieve true equality for all Australians.

It will provide sustainable land and waterways shape a better future of all people and ensure a healthy united Australia

The goals of The Dilly Bag are to employ as many indigenous people as possible and provide a quality product and service delivery of which all Australians can be proud.'

Source: Dale Chapman, www.thedillybag.com.au.