Indigenous business has a fascinating past and a promising future. Don’t keep history a mystery.

La Perouse. Dharawal Country

For many Aboriginal people this year’s Reconciliation Week theme of ‘Don’t keep history a mystery’ will allow them to exhale and release so many stories embedded into their existence.

I see it as an opportunity to shed light on a range of issues that face my people. When I speak of my people I do not speak on behalf of Aboriginal Australia but the Dharawal people of Coastal Sydney. I am Dharawal like my Great Grandmothers Grandmother was before her. For a long time our story has been written for us, whether it be non-Aboriginal historians or other Aboriginal people who do not have an ongoing cultural connection to Coastal Sydney as generations of Dharawal people before me refused to engage with historians or academics who were ‘hell bent’ on making assumptions about our people.

The good news is today’s generation can tell our story with confidence, and interpret historical information with an appropriate lens. Our task is ‘telling the truth’ about all the misconceptions assigned to our story in the past.

This is one of those untold stories.

For many thousands of years my people have engaged in sustainable trade; trading with mobs outside of our Country. This is evidenced through tools made from timbers that grew in a specific area hundreds of kilometres away from where they were found. A ‘Garara’ (a fishing spear made in Botany Bay, with a three pronged tip) was discovered in Coffs Harbor and shards of stones used for cutting tools from the Western Desert was found in Western Sydney.

When the British arrived the trade did not cease.

In fact my people were leaders in the developing economy of New South Wales. Prior to government intervention in 1883 our old people sold fish to the Wentworth and Hill families who would on sell them to the fish markets. Half the catch fed our people, the other half was sold.

But our recent ancestors were involved in more than just fishing. Paddy Davis (Barragalong) a local Dharawal identity provided the shells that were ground to make lime mortar, the building blocks for the construction industry in early Colonial days.

When government intervention took hold of my people in 1883, we were shut out of engaging in mainstream business, sent to an economic wasteland where we sat idle for nearly a century.

Since the 1967 Referendum my people have been slowly but surely re-engaging in the mainstream economy. With the introduction by the Australian Government of the Indigenous Procurement Policy in July 2015 there has been a noticeable shift in the mindset of my community toward start-ups and innovative ways to source revenue.

Gamay Beach Hire, a subsidiary of the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) was opened in the summer of 2016/17. Gamay Beach Hire employs local youth to provide affordable beach equipment to beachgoers at Yarra Bay.

Jawun, with the assistance of KPMG has been instrumental in the development of our community based start-up providing La Perouse LALC with the necessary expertise in business development.

My people are excited to be re-engaged in trade. We see partnerships with corporates vital to help our ideas accelerate to become viable and sustainable long term businesses.  Although we have a lot to catch up on, I feel there are now endless possibilities for generations to come.


6 thoughts on “Indigenous business has a fascinating past and a promising future. Don’t keep history a mystery.

  1. Brilliant article – thank you Alan. These are really important stories to tell and I’m enjoying learning from them.

  2. A fabulous article – well done. Telling these stories to help us all look at our history with different lenses is critically important. Thank you for sharing your perspective

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