Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining an incredible, all Indigenous panel at the Indigenous Land Corporation's (ILC) Senior Managers Conference. Tasked with reflecting on the organisations successes over the last 20 years and projecting what the future may hold, the conference was a time to pause and to dream.
The ILC was created in the mid 1990's following the Mabo Decision, which recognised the traditional title that Indigenous People held and continue to hold over land in Australia. It is now the 15th largest cattle producer in Australia and provides important access for Indigenous People to their traditional land to practice culture and lore.
In preparation for the panel, I reflected on the ILC's financial statements and media. It was an exciting read- self determination and Indigenous empowerment formed the basis of the narrative told, as the financial report told of tourism, agriculture and education success. The stories were there to be shared- they just need a platform to be heard around the world.
But the reports also encouraged thought and hope for the future. Indigenous People currently 'own' (in a legal sense) approximately 50% of Australia's land mass, yet struggle to access the finance from lending institutions to allow and create local development. There is so much growing potential, yet Indigenous People struggle to access the opportunities that many people take for granted.
I was asked to cast my mind and speak on the three key areas that I love working in:
Indigenous affairs, agriculture and the environment.
By thinking into the future, I discussed the following trends I have noticed, hoping that they would help inform the future and allow further dreaming for the organisation. In turn, this would hopefully allow greater access for Indigenous communities to their land and also allow better work opportunities.
We have a growing and ageing population, many who cling to the Eastern seaboard and our cities. But, as a society, we have an increasing social conscious. We have a progressing interest in Indigenous affairs, arguably not seen since the 1967 Referendum, and a greater emphasis on consumer products that enable social change and connect the consumer through story. Prime examples of these are the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline protest in the States and Thank You products in Australia.
In the Indigenous sector, we have a growing youth demographic, with the majority of Indigenous People living in our cities. There is also a greater focus on self and community empowerment, demonstrated through the strengthening discussion on Constitutional recognition or Treaty.
There is also a developing middle and upper class, which means an increasing difference between the middle and lower class in our Indigenous communities. This also means that there is an increased responsibility to give back to community, particularly those with higher incomes, who often provide assistance back to their family and community.
There is a changing and growing discussion regarding the definition of Aboriginality and culture. This eloquently is spoken from the heart of Stan Grant in his Quarterly Essay "The Australian Dream: Blood, History and Becoming", but is also occurring in a practical sense as young Indigenous People try to find their identity in the corporate lifestyles they are adopting.
There is also an increasing number of Indigenous entrepreneurs, who will provide local based employment and hope for our People in the cities and rural and remote towns.
As the agricultural sector approaches the front pages of our newspapers, particularly after Gina Rinehart's purchase of Kidman and Co, there becomes a growing interest in the way our food is produced and where consumers can buy Australian products. This has been coupled with an increased investment into agriculture research, development, technology and innovation, demonstrated by the establishment of SproutX.
However, there is a growing need for farmers to fit in with societal expectations- particularly their animal welfare and environmental beliefs. This is the crux of our agricultural shift, with farmers held accountable to the public, particularly through the works of animal rights and environmental advocates.
The environmental space is increasing rapidly, and will continue to grow due to the shift in consumer expectations. This has been seen through growing Corporate Social Responsibility funding, particularly in carbon opportunities. Carbon credit offsetting, particularly those with great biodiversity and social outcomes, will become a requirement for large businesses into the future, if they have not already adapted.
There also has been, and there will be an emerging demand for renewables and local based solutions. This will become more important as we thrive to become more connected as citizens. There is also an increasing number of Indigenous environmental groups, particularly SEED Mob, who are advocating for Indigenous environmental rights and ensuring our voice is heard by Indigenous People.
The sands of time have faded, but what we have is what we remember and our future.