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The Australian National University

Indigenous Australian entrepreneurs: Not all community organisations, not all in the outback

Discussion Paper 279 / 2006


The media, academic publications and parliamentary speeches typically perceive Indigenous business enterprises as ‘community’ run ventures. This blanket characterisation is inadequate as it renders the individual Indigenous urban entrepreneur invisible and unconsidered. Confusion in public reporting and accountability has resulted in misconceptions that cloud the image of what a successful Indigenous entrepreneur is. In addition, previous published literature seems skewed towards the rural or remote areas when, in fact, almost three-quarters of Indigenous Australians live in urban areas. Little is known of the individual, urban and provincial Indigenous Australian entrepreneur.

How can government policy be truly informed if the basic building blocks of empirical data on Indigenous entrepreneurship, either in census figures or within consultations, remain unexamined? The 2001 Census shows there are 1,845 urban and provincial Indigenous Australians who are employers (i.e. employ themselves and others). This discussion paper examines 50 qualitative case studies—a major sample of an almost unknown segment of the Census population—of successful urban and provincial Indigenous Australian entrepreneurs who employ other people. It contributes to ongoing research by outlining the inhibitors and motivators for urban Indigenous entrepreneurs.

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