Addressing the elephant in the room, shifting power and making space for Indigenous Enterprises

by Mirabelle Morah / September 2022

“We have been social entrepreneurs for 1,000 years – we welcome this new movement to join us”. – Te Pūoho Kātene 

Indigenous Social Enterprise is one of SEWF’s five key themes this year and Indigenous social enterprises and entrepreneurs play a vital role, contributing greatly to economic development across sectors, from tech to health to environment and more. These social enterprises develop solutions that drive sustainable growth within their communities; solutions that redistribute wealth, provide employment, protect their land and more.  

It’s also worthy of note that the SEWF 2022 brand was a collaboration between design school Billy Blue at Torres University Australia and Indigenous designer, Marcus Lee.

“The logo you see today is based on the traditional Aboriginal icon of the meeting place, which is essentially a circle, or two or three concentric circles, with the wavy pathways moving towards the centre being a symbolic representation of parties coming together to meet”. – Marcus Lee 

Below are eight (8) powerful thoughts and insights from Indigenous leaders taking the stage at SEWF22. You can also view more speakers on our speaker page.

Eight powerful thoughts and insights from Indigenous leaders 

Audrey Deemal, Executive Leader, Cape York Partnership (Australia)1. Audrey Deemal, Executive Leader, Cape York Partnership (Australia) 

“…We have a great opportunity to listen and learn from the world leaders in this space. I’m looking forward to hearing about their work, their challenges, how their challenges were overcome, as well as hearing and witnessing their successes… My advice to young and upcoming social entrepreneurs, don’t forget where you come from, how far you travelled and why you are here. Celebrate your wins and reassess what went wrong, dust yourself off and try again”. 

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Lateesha Jeffrey, Director and Consultant, Wave of Change Consultancy (Australia) 

2. Lateesha Jeffrey, Director and Consultant, Wave of Change Consultancy (Australia) 

“I am fairly new to this space, so not having known the possibilities of social enterprises over 14 months ago – it has grown immensely within my eyes and experience… For the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander owned and run social enterprise sector … [SEWF is] going to be an influential space for us to continue to grow, but also to influence more in this space, creating the necessary connections and platform to do it”.


Fiona Jose Headshot

3. Fiona Jose, CEO, Cape York Partnership (Australia) 

“Australia has been a little bit behind the world, in terms of recognising and encouraging social enterprise development, particularly in economic policy, and yet social entrepreneurship is not something new for Australians. Even more so for First Nations Australians, who have always placed community and our lands at the heart of everything we do. I cannot speak for everyone, but the Social Enterprise World Forum for me means a way for First Nations’ people to be recognised for how they do things differently and successfully so that we can share our stories with the world and exchange ideas with others, so that we can inspire change. I believe the social enterprise sector, and Australians more broadly, would be far richer socially, environmentally, and economically, if there were more global interactions like SEWF to create the opportunity to learn and share ideas on how equality is being addressed in other countries”. 


Te Pūoho Katene, Executive Director at Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust

4. Te Pūoho Kātene, Executive Director, Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust (Aotearoa New Zealand) 

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“Tribal and Indigenous economic activities have always been grounded with social and environmental outcomes at their heart. What we have seen recently is a growing shift in western values to align with traditional, intergenerational mindset. We have been social entrepreneurs for 1,000 years – we welcome this new movement to join us”. 


Bek Lasky, Deputy Executive Officer, (Australia)5. Bek Lasky, Deputy Executive Officer, Ngarrimili (Australia)
(Australian Social Enterprise Youth Forum Speaker)

“My advice is tailored specifically to First Nations young and upcoming social entrepreneurs. If you want to do something, no matter what it is, you are capable of doing so… Social enterprises have become more common among the community and world as I’ve gotten older. I feel the new generations are more focused on protecting and helping the people and the planet and therefore are putting more time, money and resources into social enterprises”.


 Laura Thompson, Founder and CEO, Clothing The Gaps6. Laura Thompson, Founder and CEO, Clothing The Gaps (Australia) 

“I wish someone told me earlier that business will give you more freedom to lead, try new things and take a stance on issues you care about. As social enterprise we are purpose driven and use business as a mechanism and platform for advocacy and social justice for First Nations people… SEWF is an opportunity to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of First Nations people here in Australia”.  


Patricia Torres Headshot7. Patricia Torres, Founder & Director, Mayi Harvests (Australia) 

“I believe that there are many more active and socially conscious and community development focused individuals within this space now, where the outcomes and benefits for First Nation Australians are being considered genuinely and acted upon instead of being just talked about. This event [SEWF] brings together many passionate and committed individuals who can grow their networks to share their achievements, share their community development journeys and learn from each other and celebrate our coming together for a better world”. 

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Flora Vano

8. Flora Vano, Country Manager, ActionAid Vanuatu (Vanuatu) 

“Yes, the social enterprise landscape has seriously been impacted by Covid-19. This has been particularly difficult for women whose small businesses have heavily been impacted or shut down. This has inspired me to support the organising of local rural women to start up their economic alternatives to address poverty, marginalization and injustices. It has motivated me to actively represent their issues as well as the transformations that have taken place in their lives”.

Dreamy: sleep stories from First Nations’ storytellers 

SEWF22 speaker, Rona Glynn-McDonald is a Kaytetye woman who grew up in Mparntwe on Arrernte Country. With ties to storytelling, economics and narrative change, Rona is the founding CEO of Common Ground (Australia), a First Nations-led not-for-profit working to shape a society that centers First Nations people by amplifying knowledge, cultures and stories. Dreamy, a project by Common Ground is a collection of sleep stories created by First Nations storytellers to help people of all walks of life to quiet their minds, connect with their lands and drift off into dreams. 

At SEWF we value the perspectives of Indigenous social enterprises. You can view the full program and use the filter button to add Indigenous Social Enterprise-focused sessions to your calendar.

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Mirabelle Morah is the community and communications manager at SEWF