Following from the success of its inaugural conference in 2015, Deakin Business School (DBS), proudly hosted its second Indigenous Accounting and Business Conference at the Geelong Waterfront Campus on October 26 and 27, 2016. Officially recognised as an Indigenous business month event, the conference was the only endorsed event running in Victoria this year.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Cultural Inclusion in Business” which aimed to raise awareness and foster discussions about furthering the economic development of Indigenous peoples in a positive and culturally-inclusive environment.
After a moving “Welcome to Country” by Corrina O’Toole and Norm Stanley, the chair of the conference, Dr Luisa Lombardi welcomed the delegates to the conference saying that ‘the overarching aim of this conference is to continue the path to raise awareness regarding the role that business and finance can play in furthering the economic development of Indigenous peoples, and to do so in a positive and culturally safe forum’.
Vice Chancellor Jane den Hollander eloquently opened the conference by reminding the audience that ‘cultural inclusion in business is no longer a “nice to have’’. Cultural inclusion in business must be dear to all of our hearts.’
The tone was set for the conference as a number of prominent Indigenous community members proceeded to share their thoughts and insights through a series of keynote addresses and panel sessions held over two days.
Deputy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Robynne Quiggin, opened with a keynote address that reiterated the importance of cultural inclusion.
‘Cultural inclusion in business is a fundamental consideration… Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will bring culture with us, we will be who we are no matter where we go,’ she said. Her address also focussed on the risk associated with the management of land rights, particularly the need to consider the medium and long-term needs of impacted communities and their ability to accrue and transfer wealth inter-generations.
Shawn Andrews, Founder and Managing Director of Indigicate, explained that cultural inclusion in business helped him to come to terms with his identity as an Indigenous person, rather than just a businessperson.
‘To embed our culture in business is to embed myself in business,’ he said.
As important as cultural inclusion is to the Indigenous community, it is equally as important to the progression and growth of business in Australia.
This value of cultural inclusion in business, for business, was shared by CEO of Supply Nation, Laura Berry during her keynote address on day two of the conference.
She explained that cultural inclusion holds far greater value for business than simply donating money to comply with corporate social responsibility requirements.
‘Large organisations are seeing more and more value in indigenous business and are moving into procurement teams. It’s not just charity work, it’s meaningful and gives competitive advantage,’ she said.
In light of the importance of cultural inclusion in business – for both the Indigenous community and for business – a key highlight of the conference was the announcement of the establishment of the Indigenous Finance and Business Association (IFAB) by Damian Shannon.
Another conference highlight was a half-day visit to Deakin University’s Institute of Koorie Education (IKE) where guests heard from Professor Liz Cameron, Director of IKE and keynote speaker Professor Mark Rose, Office of Indigenous Strategy and Education at La Trobe University, whose address was titled ‘Waking the sleeping giant’.
Across a national program, IKE offers a unique immersive learning experience and currently has over 350 Indigenous students enrolled from all over Australia.
Sessions from other First Nation Community leaders, including representatives from New Zealand, Canada and India, told of the experiences, challenges and successes with cultural inclusion in business in their respective countries
This year’s conference would not have been possible without the generosity of sponsors and DBS extends its thanks and appreciation to gold sponsors Ernst and Young, PwC, Indigenous Accountants Australia, and silver sponsors AMP Capital, Arnold Bloch Leibler, Australian Institute of Management, KPMG and Perpetual for their involvement.
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