Bringing 60,000 years of enterprise knowledge to the modern marketplace

Interview with Jocelyn King – CEO of First Australians Capital

Jocelyn King is a proud Bundjalung woman. For 20 years she has been actively involved in the Hunter Aboriginal community and has a deep understand of the value of Aboriginal knowledge. As the CEO of First Australians Capital, Jocelyn is forging a game changing new economy for Aboriginal
enterprises across the country.

Your innovation

First Australians is a not-for-profit organization that was established to assist Aboriginal enterprises to flourish and develop. We have two approaches to this – funding and the development of tech platforms.

In December we are launching the first Aboriginal tourism tech platform. A cross between AirBnB and Uber; it connects Aboriginal tourism operators with people who want to experience Aboriginal Culture. We also provide insurance and business support. We already have 180 operators across Australia on the platform. Our next marketplace will be bush foods. So small scale local produce operators will be able to list and sell their produce via a digital market place. Funding-wise – we are aiming to develop a $100 mil investor fund for early stage ideas.

Your story

I moved to the Hunter when my parents separated as a teenager. We lived in an unlined double garage on a property my grandparents owned. Growing up in an urban Aboriginal community meant I didn’t have a huge connection to culture. This developed as young adult when working in Newcastle I met some elders who had known my grandfather. I had my first kid at 18 and had four children by the time I was 26. I had no income to raise them and I didn’t want them to have the same experience as I did growing up. When my second daughter was born, I enrolled in a Masters of Applied Science and Social Ecology at the University of WesternSydney. I studied by distance while working in hospitality.

I knew as a young person that the system was broken and I was looking for a way I could make change in the world.

After Uni I started working for the Department of Community Service. However when my kids got
really sick from community acquired Golden Staph, I was forced to make the decision to take six months leave. During this time I was awarded a small amount of funding to look at improving Aboriginal communities. I realised then that most of the government funding was going to larger organisations that weren’t necessarily great at working with Aboriginal organisations. So I began helping smaller Aboriginal-led organisations to navigate funding or develop their business so they didn’t have to rely
on funding at all.

My mentor Lee Armstrong and I realised that teaching Aboriginal organisations to create businesses would combat the funding shortage. It was when we looked to take this nationally that First Australians Capital was established.

Your business and /team

First Australians Capital is emerging. However we’ve managed to work with over 170 businesses during our first 2 years of operation. We are a team of seven people, which includes Head of Investments, Head of Economic Development, Head of Start Your Own Business and two Business Advisors. We have two staff in Cairns, one in Melbourne, three in Sydney and myself in Newcastle / Sydney. We use communication tools like Slack and Zoom a lot!

We receive some philanthropic funding; the AMP Foundation was our first founder. The rest of our income comes from consulting and contract work. Once we establish our $100 mil fund we’ll become self-sufficient.

Innovation Ecosystem Support accessed (accelerator/ funding/ mentoring, etc)

I’ve always been aware of the dangers of being reliant on government funding, because it changes depending on the political environment. We prefer to look to philanthropists or venture capitalists for our funding. This also helps us to keep our clients and businesses always at the core of what we doing rather than having to pander to political agendas.

Why Newcastle

We want to have a full time presence in the Hunter because it has the fastest growing Aboriginal community in Australia. There are 15,000 Aboriginal people in The Hunter and Central Coast. It’s also a very culturally significant place for Aboriginal people. Most people don’t know this but Mount Yengo in Wollombi is as culturally significant to the people of this area as Uluru is to the Central Desert people.

Your lessons

My biggest challenge has been breaking down the stereotype that Aboriginal people don’t know how to be business people. Aboriginal people are actually very entrepreneurial but our access to capital has been limited. In the 1960 we still had to have permit to work. You can’t have intergenerational wealth if only one generation has been able to work.
My piece of advice would be to choose your partners carefully. A lot of really well intention people have done a lot of damage – it’s important that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. It’s important to us that the businesses we work with are indigenous-led and remain that way. There is a Western view that the world operates a certain way. Aboriginal people have an alternate view. We don’t always want to get where White people want us to be. But I believe our way of living is a gift to Australia and we’d love to share that.

The future

Next big goal is to raise our fund. We plan to have it up and running by March next year. We’d love for people to get involved so please get in touch!
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