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The Australian National University

Recent growth in Indigenous self-employed and entrepreneurs

Working Paper 91 / 2013

Abstract

Historically, Indigenous people have largely been excluded from building businesses in Australia. Recent reductions in Indigenous disadvantage, especially improvements in Indigenous skills, may have combined with other policy changes to make it easier for Indigenous entrepreneurs to set up successful businesses. Indigenous self-employment has increased substantially in the last two decades. Government organisations and programs that finance and support the success of Indigenous business provide one explanation for this trend. However private sector initiatives also have a role to play. Several mining companies have made large commitments to allocate contracts to local Indigenous people. But this paper provides an estimate of the size of the Indigenous self-employment sector in 2011 that is smaller than the public commitments from Fortescue Metals Groups and Rio Tinto. Nevertheless the recent growth in self-employment raises the issue of capacity constraints in a rapidly expanding Indigenous business sector. Another relevant issue is the need to reflect on a justifiable definition of an Indigenous business. Clearly, Indigenous business is qualitatively different to Indigenous self-employment, but policy-makers and statistical collections need to reflect on the definition of Indigenous business and the extent of Indigenous control and participation that make these businesses Indigenous. 

Keywords: Entrepreneurship, Indigenous business, self-employment, private sector.

 

ISSN: 
1442 3871
ISBN: 
0 7315 4990 2

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