The importance of economic development as a base from which to build the strength and growth of the Indigenous people is of paramount and supreme importance. As history has shown us, the rise of great states, nations and people is built on the back of several key factors. These include cultural identity, strict code of law and conduct, military prowess and of course, for what will be discussed in this article, ideas and an economic base and prosperity. Economic development is the key for the development, empowerment and rise of the Indigenous people of this nation. With an economic base, we are able to build, create and nurture an environment from which we can forge our own destiny not reliant on the intervention of outside and foreign power, but rather a self sufficient system of internal power.
This is not to say we cannot work with others, trade with others or to say we will shut ourselves away. No, but rather we can sit as equals among others and dictate terms on our level rather than having these terms dictated to us, as is all too prevalent in this day and age. Like any power base, we must look to the economics as the fire from which will fuel our furnace and this economic development can begin with the investment in our youth, education and our ideas.
Ideas and knowledge as a base from which to build our economy is of paramount importance and can come in many forms. At present, the idea has been pushed onto us that the sport is indeed our salvation. We hold up our sporting icons as heroes, as the pinnacle of Aboriginal achievement, and while indeed we should take nothing away from these men and women who have risen above and beyond, they are but the tip of the iceberg in what we can accomplish as a people. While sport is fantastic in its ability to produce greatness, resilience and fortitude (great things can come from athletic pursuits), our communities should not only be producing athletes as our role models and who we see on our TV’s and in our news feeds every day, but holding up science, mathematics, literature and linguistics, art and civics (to name but a few) as our pursuits.
Our role models and cultural identity must be formed around the strength that these men and women exhibit and show as well. We have already conquered the pursuit of sport, we are some of the most naturally gifted athletes in the world – a fact we can truly be proud of – but now it is time to turn our attention to other endeavours as well. In our pursuit of economic power, we must begin to hold up these new pursuits and new heroes in these fields. After all, it is science, mathematics and civics which will truly leave a mark not only on ourselves and nation but on the rest of humanity. These men and women who dedicated themselves to these fields must be given recognition and risen up as role models for our youth. The ideas that they can exhibit will lead us towards the path of economic prosperity, which in turn will lead us to becoming a equal player, with equal respect at the table of domestic and international power.
International powers around the world have built themselves into the positions they are in today because they are willing to stand together unified (a feat we still have not yet truly accomplished) and invest in themselves and ideas. As they have built their economies, prosperity has come to them as they build their own empires and states. We can learn from these examples. We can begin to look at investment in each other’s ideas, each others education and by each of us as individuals taking responsibility for the wellbeing and prosperity of our communities, whether we live in the outback or in the urban sprawl, we all have a responsibility and role to play in the empowerment and rise of our people.
As the world has provided the blue print for our success, it is time to look at our economic base, our ideas and our position within this society and ask ourselves, are we content with the mediocrity that has been handed to us? Our people were never destined for such a fate. With major socio-economic issues facing our people, it is all too apparent that the government does not care for our toils. We need not rely on them (as some of us seem to think we do), we need build ourselves up to the power house I know we have in us to be. However, the road to the top is fraught with hardship and peril and indeed we must be willing to do what is necessary to create our own pathways and legacy.
Economics is the path we must look to. For in this world, power is built on the back of economics, and to truly be respected as equal we must have the gold to make the rules. Today we are given the crumbs from the tables of major developments. Tokenistic gestures as a way of saying we have done our part from you. We do not need nor want this charity. We negotiate as equal. Equal right, equal say, equal opportunity. We do not need the hand out but rather the hand up! The day we can negotiate in our own country as equals over the rights and royalties to land development will be a momentous day indeed.
However, the fight does not stop there, as we must look to ourselves and ensure all people have access to this opportunity. Too many family dynasties in this country have pushed themselves forward while leaving their brothers and sisters in the gutters. As one of us bleeds, so do the rest. However, it is always important to remember that being Aboriginal is as much a mentality as it is a birthright. For those who only take in our culture and give nothing back to the collective, they would be traditionally exiled, or worse, and unfortunately today far too many take and far too few give for the betterment of the collective. If we are to build an economy, we must subscribe to the mentality that we are to build our communities up, not just our families (Corruption is a sickness we must weed out and destroy but this is perhaps another story for another time).
The power we hold culturally is truly significant, however, as we have seen for too long, it is subject to abuse and exploitation by external entities. As we take back what is truly ours, beginning with our identity, we can begin to build our base. Our economic base will supply and fund our projects, our developments, our cultural undertakings, our education and our legacy. Our ideas are the key to unlocking this potential, whether it is through land utilisation, academic knowledge, startups and business or investment (to name but a few again) we must diversify and expand economic influence into a number of differing opportunities which lay in our world today.
The world has become a smaller place with the introduction of new technologies and innovations – we can indeed capitalise on this reality and bring about our local knowledge and ideas into the international arena. The day we begin as a people to once again go back to the strength of our strict laws, our culture which has been disrespected and trampled on, and find the respect within ourselves to say “enough is enough”, we can build our own legacy. Not built upon the back of others but on our own terms and accord. This all begins with the building of our own economy and belief in who we are and what we can do. Change starts with us!
Jesse T Martin
The Streets Movement Organisation
Michael is a Ngarrindjeri Monaro man from Southern NSW, who is a judge and Keynote speaker at Australia’s First Indigenous Startup Weekend.
Michael’s business is called Message Stick, which is a unique business in that it is owned by Aboriginal Australians. The company was started in 2003 to show that Aboriginal Australians can own and manage a services business that engages with large corporations and Government agencies. The business does not seek any sponsorship, donations or social grants whatsoever. They seek only the opportunity to prove themselves and to be treated as worthy business partners.
Michael’s future is aimed at advocating the need for Australian society (particularly the private sector and our Governments) to embrace, and support, the challenge Indigenous people face when his people begin the journey towards economic independence.
His Message Stick business model is aimed at proving that Indigenous and non-indigenous people can work together to achieve generic economic results – yet still fully support, and participate in, community growth.