How First Australians Capital is supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs to thrive

by Women’s Agenda
Tuesday 11 October 2022

Niyoka Bundle leaning on Pawa Catering van

Harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of First Nations people can lead to extraordinary results, both in the business world and in communities.

It’s something the Indigneous-led organisation, First Australians Capital, has witnessed first hand in its work supporting First Nations people and businesses. The organisation is dedicated to providing Indigenous entrepreneurs with access to capital, business support, market opportunities and networks. 

Associate Director in Business Advisory at First Australians Capital, Tiarne Shutt, says the organisation is on a mission to ensure Indigenous entrepreneurs are granted access to funds so they scale their businesses.

“There are Indigenous businesses that just need timely access to capital, resources and networks,” says Shutt, a proud First Nations woman with ancestral ties to the Worimi people.

“Those things might have been excluded from them because of the history of colonisation and systemic racism and systemic inequities.

“First Australians Capital was created as a way for Indigenous businesses to become economically independent, to create intergenerational wealth and to be equal for self-determination.”

As Shutt shares, Indigenous people are inherently entrepreneurial, but so often, they have been systematically shut out of the access to resources they need to scale.

“Indigenous people are not vulnerable. We have all the skills. What we often don't have is access. And that’s where First Australians Capital steps in,” Shutt says. 

Tarni Fisher, a Kuku Nyungkal woman and investment manager at First Australians Capital, says the organisation aims to walk alongside Indigenous entrepreneurs as they look to grow their businesses. Importantly, First Australians capital is not government funded, and is led purely by Indigenous people.

“That enables us to build trust with our community, but also to innovate and to try and do different things,” Fisher says.

“We're uniquely positioned to support Indigenous entrepreneurs because we are Indigenous people. And First Australians Capital is led by Indigenous people which is a huge part of our success.

“We recognise it’s about giving entrepreneurs the confidence and the infrastructure in capital to uplift their business, make it bigger, and really help them spread their wings.”

At First Australians Capital, there is a special focus on centring First Nations women, both in the organisation’s structure - its board is filled with a majority of women - and in the businesses it chooses to support. 

“Indigenous women are the heart of Indigenous communities,” Shutt says. 

“And inherently from a cultural point of view, women have kind of gravitated to First Australians Capital because we have an inherent desire to make the next generation more equitable for our people.”

Lisa Keenan, Executive Director of MECCA M-POWER, said helping to shift power structures and create systemic change is a major reason M-POWER is excited to partner with First Australians Capital.

“We are delighted to be M-POWERing a diverse range of businesses, all owned and led by Indigenous women, women who are at the forefront of economic change, at the heart of their communities and who possess the skills to move us to a more just, impact-led economy.”

Indeed, Shutt says Indigenous women are too often spoken of in a “deficit model”, and we need to all shift our thinking when it comes to what they are achieving as entrepreneurs.

“It’s that mindset we are really trying to shift. It’s actually the system that’s broken, not Indigneous women,” she says.

“We've been really proactive in seeking funding opportunities for us to amplify our work with women.”