Inroads to business

By NAIDOC* week is testament to the growing recognition and celebration of the diversity and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the many First Nations here in Australia.   Monday, 15 July 2013  Features

This was evident during our time at the recent UNSW Indigenous Winter School with nearly 150 Indigenous high school students in years 10,11 and 12 spending a week long residential program hosted by Nura Gili in partnership with UNSW faculties with the support of global financial firm, UBS.

One of our highlights was the ASB Community Forum on July 11. This day provided a pivotal platform for Indigenous Winter School students, who had elected the study area of Business, to network and explore firsthand what ASB offers our students across the Accounting, Banking and Finance sectors. The day provided insights into our ASB degrees and Indigenous programs, including opportunities in industry engagement - internships, networking evenings, career advice, mentoring, graduate programs and involvement with national initiatives such as the Indigenous Accountants Australia Project and the Diversity Council of Australia’s National Indigenous Corporate Network.

The day’s speakers included: Australian School of Business Dean, Professor Geoffrey Garrett; National Relationship Manager – Indigenous Strategies, Gavin Tye; Diversity Council of Australia’s- Amber Roberts; Head of the School of Banking & Finance at ASB, Associate Professor of Finance, Jerry Parwada; ASB Accounting Lecturer Brian Burfitt; Future Map’s Alisdair Barr, Indigenous Business Australia’s Rebekah Munday and current ASB Indigenous students Sarah Hyland, Damian Shannon and Ben Eisikovich.

Gavin Tye whose national role is heading up the Indigenous Accountants Australia (IAA) project also announced at the forum that Sarah Hyland, ASB Indigenous student, soon to graduate, had successfully secured, over stiff competition, the National Project officer role for the IAA project, funded by Australia's joint accounting bodies (JAB): CPA Australia, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and the Institute of Public Accountants.

We also launched ASB’s new guide for future Indigenous students.

In addition to our key speakers, participants were involved in interactive business simulations, goal setting activities, case studies and panel discussions. The gathering included current ASB Indigenous students, academic and professional staff from ASB and Nura Gili, industry leaders and mentors, including Indigenous role models, who alongside our Winter School participants exchanged ideas and shared their expertise. The willingness of speakers and participants to share professional and personal insights into their study and careers was both inspiring and humbling.

Sarah Hyland was the joint-MC for the day alongside Damian Shannon who is also in his final year of his Bachelor of Commerce and completing his Diploma in Professional Practice. He emphasised the real need to attract and support more Indigenous business professionals in order to change the landscape and lives for more Indigenous Australians:

“The underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the accounting and finance sectors is an issue that has a broad effect on individuals and communities as a whole”, said Damian.
“The lack of financial knowledge within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities leaves them open to financial exploitation. Encouraging financial inclusion and building financial literacy is a critical element addressing broader challenges indigenous communities face in health, housing, education and employment.

While financial security is a cornerstone of the accounting profession, Indigenous communities can also create ‘knowledge wealth’ by sharing information that provides education and development opportunities for future generations. Rebecca Harcourt summed it up best when she said ‘the currency of business knowledge and practice is key when it comes to self-determination’. Events like today are imperative to achieving a direct increase in the national base number of Indigenous accountants and professionals within the banking and finance sectors.”

The feedback and evaluations from our Winter School Indigenous high school participants who had spent much of the week with ASB, was very strong. Students indicated how much they gained from the program which allowed them to engage first-hand in a range activities and seminars across a number our teaching programs including business ethics, management, information systems, accounting, marketing, banking and finance, social enterprise, economics as well as academic development, professional industry links and opportunities.

Many students said the program exceeded their expectations and provided insights into the many study and career opportunities they can pursue.

Our theme for this year’s ASB Winter School program was ‘Our Business, Our Future’ and at the end of the program, I presented students with their certificates at Nura Gili’s Winter School Graduation ceremony to an audience of over 200 people. The smiles of pride on the students’ faces said they were up to the challenges ahead and had no doubt that with hard work, tenacity and belief in themselves, the future was definitely in their hands.

NAIDOC* week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’ “

Rebecca developed and facilitated the 2013 UNSW Indigenous Winter School Business program and ASB Community Forum