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Reconciliation Week: a vision to move forward together
Community
30 May 2019
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Allen Roberts, Head of Economic Development at First Australians Capital, is a big believer in seizing every opportunity that life presents.

It is an approach that has served him well and perfectly placed him to now help other Indigenous businesspeople build on their strengths and assets.

A Yorta Yorta man, Allen grew up in Mooroopna – a township on the Goulburn River across from Shepparton.

While Allen’s family was materially disadvantaged, they instilled in him a rich sense of community that led him to work at First Australians Capital.

"That idea of sharing and helping each other move forward together still drives me."

“Looking back, we were living below the poverty line. I would often go without food,” said Allen

“But there was a great sense of community… Our people are incredibly resilient and will always think of others before ourselves. That idea of sharing and helping each other move forward together still drives me.”

During high school, Allen was part of a development program run by Ganbina, a small but effective non-profit the AMP Foundation partnered with for many years.

This led to a scholarship to attend Trinity Grammar in Melbourne, followed by study at the University of Melbourne.

A Goldman Sachs cadetship then set him on the path to a career in finance.

Now at First Australians Capital – an AMP Foundation non-profit partner – Allen helps Indigenous businesspeople working in areas as diverse as agriculture, catering and waste management to develop their management capabilities and access capital.

“First Australians Capital knows there is enormous potential for Indigenous businesses to build a new economy for all Australians.”

Pictured: Allen Roberts, Head of Economic Development at First Australians Capital

In his first year in the role, he supported 61 businesses that collectively employ 310 people.

Among them is Warialda Engineering and Welding (WEW), a 100% Indigenous-owned agricultural engineering business that for many years constructed feedlots and customised trailers and tools for New South Wales farmers.

When drought started to take its toll on the business in 2017, WEW turned to First Australian Capital.

After conducting a business review, Allen identified key issues as well as an opportunity for WEW to move into the growing civil construction space.

With the support of FAC, WEW secured $1.56 million in funding to acquire the equipment needed to take up a contract on the Shoalwater Bay Infrastructure Project.

This contract is expected to generate more than $2.78 million in revenue for WEW, which today has an all-Indigenous staff of 16.

Mick Davis, the award-winning inventor who started WEW in his garage back in 1996, says his business is now well positioned to grow and employ more Indigenous community members:

“The new equipment has put us into some new large contracts and for the first time real financial growth. We are in the middle of the biggest drought in 60 years and without this opportunity we may not be alive today… Real jobs, real opportunity with a focus on Indigenous employment and training.”

It’s an opportune time for businesses like WEW, with the Federal Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy increasing demand for Indigenous products and services. 

“First Australians Capital knows there is enormous potential for Indigenous businesses to build a new economy for all Australians,” said Allen.  

“I still feel there is a lot of stereotyping of what an Indigenous person is supposed to be, and what we are capable of. The expectations can be lower."

“We need to get past that if we are going to move forward together. And the best way to do that is share those stories of Indigenous business success and lead by example.”

The AMP Foundation is a founding partner and ongoing supporter of First Australians Capital.

Learn more how this non-profit helps Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses to build a stronger Australia here.

If you want to help grow the Indigenous business sector – either by providing financial or pro bono support - email info@firstaustralianscapital.org