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Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Speech to young Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs

09 February 2016

Parliament House, Canberra

Prime Minister


PRIME MINISTER: Alison, thank you, thank you very much and I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the Ngunnawal land on which we meet and I want to thank you very much for the Welcome to Country. We hope that Tina and her son are doing well. Sorry that she’s not here. I pay my respects on behalf of all of us to their Elders, past and present and of course the Elders from other communities many of whom are here today.

I want to thank all of my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues for coming here tonight and especially the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, who’s given a characteristically eloquent speech thank you very, very much. We all hung on every word Nigel, politicians don’t normally get that, that was very powerful, thank you so much.

This is a very significant week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and indeed for all Australians.

This morning, we celebrated 25 years of reconciliation and in the coming days we will commemorate the eighth anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.

Tomorrow I will report to the Parliament on the progress in closing the gap, which is an opportunity to recommit to improving the outcomes and achieving the equality of opportunity for all Australians to which we aspire.

But I also want this week to be significant for another reason. We’ve just seen three of them here, or four of them including you Alison up here on the stage.

I want us all to celebrate the incredible talent among Indigenous Australians who every day are making a formidable contribution to our society and to our nation and to our economy.

I want us to tell and praise and tell in the, tell everybody, the rich story of Indigenous creativity, of innovation and entrepreneurship.

We must acknowledge these achievements and recognise the diverse group of industries and applications and endeavours that are here today, from construction and agriculture to the creative arts, social services and many others.

The Indigenous entrepreneurs here today and the many others across Australia, such as Ray Pratt who I am sure many of you know from Dice who I, returning to my former avocation as a television journalist I interviewed in one of my tech talks, you can see it on Facebook, I mean he’s an Arrernte man from Alice Springs and he’s built a national electrical contracting business using really cutting-edge energy storage technology, batteries. You know this is the big deal with solar power. This is what makes solar power really viable, particularly obviously in remote areas that are off the grid. People like Ray and all of you here today have used your imagination, your enterprise, hard work, your wisdom, your cultural wisdom as Michaela was saying, to excite and ignite a thriving Indigenous business sector.

Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs are a vital part of the ideas boom. This is the new boom. This is the inexhaustible ever renewable boom. It is limited only by our imagination and our enterprise and I think we have as Australians unlimited imagination and unlimited enterprise.

It reminds us yet again that our greatest assets are walking around on top of the ground not underneath it. Valuable though all those minerals are. I don’t short-change them but you and millions of other Australians like you are our best assets.

These are the most, this is the most important capital we have, it’s our human capital.

Now, your businesses are also a direct pipeline for Indigenous employment opportunities because the fact is that businesses run by Indigenous entrepreneurs are 100 times more likely to employ Indigenous men and women than non-Indigenous led businesses.

But we also welcome here today the leaders of a number of Australia’s biggest employers, who are major buyers and important strategic partners for Indigenous businesses.

Many of the corporate leaders here today and we’ve been talking with Crown Resorts and Telstra and Woolworths and others, have committed their companies to parity employment of Indigenous Australians and I applaud that.

I also applaud your decisions to buy more goods and services from Indigenous businesses and include more Indigenous businesses in your supply chains.  That’s absolutely critical.

And it was wonderful to hear from Michaela Jade, Natalie Walker and Mitchell Ross, just a moment ago and I thank them for sharing their insights and for taking risks, for believing in themselves and demonstrating what is possible.

Your leadership is so important, your example is more persuasive, more eloquent than any speech by a politician or any book. Just being yourselves, being imaginative, believing in yourselves, being proud of yourselves. What you’re doing is setting an example and inspiring so many others.

Now, Nigel spoke about the government's Indigenous Procurement Policy and that is an example, a really profound example of policy innovation. As Nigel said, after only six months, we’ve awarded 116 contracts to 52 Indigenous businesses valued at $36 million.

That is almost 6 times more than the previous government’s yearly procurement commitment in any previous year.

I don't say that in any competitive sense but just noting that this is what happens when you innovate. When you look and say, the way we’ve been doing things to date isn't the best way, let's try something different. Let's have another go and the other important thing to remember is if you try a new policy or a new app or a new business strategy and it doesn't work, treat that as a learning experience.

You know, we have to be much more agile, just in every level, government, business, we can't guarantee, we shouldn't guarantee that every policy will be successful, or, any more than you Michaela would guarantee that every application, every idea you have will be successful. How can it be?

All you can guarantee is that it’s the best idea you have at the moment and if you come up with something better, if you learn to do it better, you can tweak it and improve it, you’ll do so.

Now this is the first time the federal government has used government spending to achieve social policy objectives in this way.

Gosh gee it is good to see you guys. I’ve got a whole line of Ingreys there, as though you’re all lined up. This really is sort of back home at La Perouse, isn't it. It really is, it’s fantastic. It's good to see you. Very good to see you, very good-looking I might say, no one can deny the connection.

Look that willingness to try new approaches to achieve our goals is paying off.

We’re building demand and that gives everybody confidence.

The exciting part of all this is that for every success story here today, there are many more across the country.

The talented young entrepreneurs who’ve joined us are leading the way in creating innovative economic opportunities, which is an inspiration for all Australians, not just Indigenous Australians.

I understand that next week a group of Indigenous-led businesses will travel to Silicon Valley with Supply Nation to exchange ideas, showcase their businesses on the world stage and return with knowledge that will help continue to grow this thriving sector.

Now I want to thank each and every one of you for your commitment, your imagination, your belief in yourselves, your belief in your future and for your vision and your hard work. It is transforming Australia. This is the way we succeed in the 21st-century, Indigenous Australians, all Australians, we succeed by believing in ourselves, by having the imagination and the confidence to do things differently. Innovation is the key that unlocks the prosperity and the security that all of us deserve in this, the most exciting time in human history.

Thank you very much and I look forward to talking to many more of you this evening. Thank you.