There’s a vital element missing from John Howard’s indigenous solution: creating economic self-reliance.
Overlooking the real solution
There’s been an awful lot of noise in the past few days about the need for large-scale, concerted action to protect indigenous children across Australia, followed by the belated recognition that we also need to do more about the plight of Aboriginal communities in general. It may be a bit overdue, but it’s very much needed.
However, something seems to be missing. Amid the talk of improved health services, housing, financial support and communications, a key ingredient has been overlooked by many commentators: the need to encourage the growth of an economically self-reliant indigenous business community.
The level of entrepreneurship among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is only about a third the rate of the wider Australian population. And it also compares pretty poorly to New Zealand and Canada, where indigenous peoples have been able to produce quite a number of successful business ventures.
Yes, there are some successful indigenous businesses, and more each year. But a community that doesn’t generate its own wealth, create its own jobs and have its own economic independence is always going to be on the back foot. Aboriginal Australians deserve better.
We could start by including entrepreneurship development programs in the Prime Minister’s rescue program. It wouldn’t be hard to do, and it would go a long way to helping deal with many of the long-term problems facing indigenous Australians.
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