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Slingshot has launched Australia’s first ever Indigenous startup accelerator program called Barayamal. The accelerator aims to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurs build successful business ideas into world class products.

Barayamal, founded by Dean Foley will help Indigenous entrepreneurs to build and grow companies that have a global impact, taking them from idea stage to investor-ready. The accelerator will provide one-on-one mentoring with successful Indigenous and non-Indigenous entrepreneurs.

The name Barayamal means Black Swan in Kamilaroi language. Black swans were first seen by Europeans in 1697, but as the story goes before that Europeans had only known of a white swan. In terms of the accelerator program, the black swan represents Indigenous entrepreneurs who have not been noticed in the world for their innovative businesses. Barayamal plans to show the world that Indigenous entrepreneurs exist and they can build global businesses too.

Karen Lawson CEO of Slingshot, told Startup Daily that the idea for Barayamal came from various conversations with Aboriginal communities around the challenges in finding employment, specifically for the younger generations.

“In having conversations with communities and government I think there’s a lot of focus around the challenges of Indigenous populations and how we can enable them to better support and grow,” said Lawson.

The current accelerators Slingshot offer are 12-week intensive programs with 10 or more startup teams. Lawson and her team identified that 12 weeks may be too challenging for entrepreneurs who have never worked in these spaces before. Slingshot worked with leaders in their local Aboriginal community to discuss how the teaching methodology at Slingshot could adapt.

The Barayamal accelerator will run for a couple of weeks instead of 12, to offer more one-on-one mentorship. The accelerator has already taken on four Indigenous entrepreneurs, some of whom are working on real estate startups and another who is creating a marketplace for Aboriginal art. The accelerator will run for a few more weeks, where startups will be assessed in terms of what the next stages of their development are.

While there are a numerous accelerators across Australia, there are few that back minority populations, with Indigenous Australians one of the most poorly supported communities.

According to the productivity commission less than half the working-age population of Aboriginal people are in jobs, and that statistic is steadily getting worse. The unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians is more than three times higher than that of the national average.

However, the digital age has brought with it a new wave of Aboriginal entrepreneurs who want to create their own jobs and build up the working population within their communities. Pastor Ray Minniecon, the chairperson of Sydney Anglican Indigenous People’s Committee told the BBC back in 2014 that continuing to forge such entrepreneurship is vital to help reduce poverty and welfare dependence on his community.

“The ways in which we now go forward in trying to get businesses going, or getting into good jobs that will help us to participate in the market economy a lot better, is of the utmost importance,” he said.

Now in 2016, Australia has seen an emergence of initiatives aimed to help Indigenous Australians forge new businesses. In August the State Library of Queensland held Australia’s first startup weekend for Indigenous would-be entrepreneurs. Participants pitched ideas to a panel of judges, and were awarded a variety of prizes.

However, organiser of the startup weekend Dean Foley said apart from awarding prizes, the main goal for these entrepreneurs was working on their ideas outside of the competition.

Foley himself is a Kamilaroi man and has found that the support for Indigenous entrepreneurs in Australia is lacking.

“This [project] came out of frustration. I just felt I wasn’t getting the support I needed to get into business and many other Indigenous people feel the same way,” he said. “A lot of Indigenous people in rural areas don’t know what’s possible and they don’t know how to achieve it.

“I never knew what was possible in business entrepreneurship … that you could help yourself, but also help your community too.”

Earlier this month Aboriginal entrepreneurs Leigh Harris and Julie-Ann Lambourne announced they are building Australia’s first ever innovation hub for minority groups. The hub called D:HIVE is set to become a centre for digital innovation, learning and collaboration.

Harris and Lambourne expect the space will help startups and entrepreneurs build useful solutions for Indigenous Australians, migrants, refugees and people with disabilities, not just in Australia but around the world.

Harris has been working on his own entrepreneurial ventures ever since 2006. “I built the first indigenous iPhone app in 2006 – everybody thought I was crazy,” Harris told has said.

“The day has come where I’m not so crazy; innovation has been happening in Cairns for 20 years.”

To generate more digital innovations within minority communities, Harris and Lambourne decided to build a hub. The hub will give entrepreneurs access to the special skills that are required to build a more inclusive digital economy.

“In the National Year of Digital Inclusion, the challenge is to imagine a more inclusive digital future for everyone, including regional and remote communities,” Lambourne told StartupSmart.

D:HIVE is expected to open its doors in February 2017 and will be co-located at enVision, the non-profit employment and training agency for minority groups in Cairns.

In continuing with the string of new initiatives for minority entrepreneurs, the new Barayamal accelerator will help to flesh out the support for Aboriginal Australians in the digital era.

In addition to Barayamal accelerator, Slingshot has also announced the launch of Australia’s first ever HR accelerator called Human Capital. The accelerator will be focused on driving workplace innovation and will run a 12-week program in collaboration with leaders across the corporate Human Resources space.

Image: Barayamal accelerator. Source: Slingshot.


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