Ngamai Becomes Government-Funded Haven For RMIT’s Indigenous Entrepreneurs

RMIT’s Mark Jones, Professor Mark Rose, Jirra Harvey and Professor Pauline Stanton and other LaunchVic funding recipients welcoming the boost to Indigenous entrepreneurship. Photo: LaunchVic

A start-up at RMIT has received a share in $1.37 million worth of funding by the Victorian Government to help continue its efforts in supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs.

The start-up, Ngamai, was designed to be a monthly meet up featuring guest speakers with a common theme or topic, sharing the stories of their business and the highs and lows along the way.

Presenters have ranged from ex AFL player turned foodie Daniel Motlop from Something Wild talking about engaging diverse stakeholder as the first Indigenous-owned supplier of game meats and native foods in Australia over Green Ant Gin cocktails to a Delvene Cockatoo-Collins from Made in Minjerribah leading a homewares workshop.

The events began in June with the aim of building a network of Indigenous entrepreneurs and start-ups at RMIT and beyond.

Ngamai was the brainchild of Jirra Harvey, an RMIT Industry Fellow for Indigenous Enterprise and MBA student and the founder of Kalinya Communications.

RMIT’s School of Management, Industry Engagement team and RMIT Activator funded the pilot.

Ms Harvey said the meet ups were successful because they were designed for Aboriginal entrepreneurs by Aboriginal entrepreneurs.

“I had the pleasure of travelling around Australia to speak with Aboriginal small business owners in 2017,” she said.

“I asked them how RMIT could best support the growth of the start-up ecosystem and they told me regular meet ups, a focus on value-led business and links with industry.

“The taster series of meet ups have created a real buzz in the sector. I am thrilled this is continuing through 2019.

“I am proud that we spend with the businesses we aim to support. Currently 80 per cent of our budget has been spent with small Aboriginal-owned businesses.”

Harvey said RMIT Elder-in-Residence N’Arwee’t Carolyn Briggs helped name the initiative in Boon wurrung language.

“Ngamai Moorroop Wilin means light the spirit of the fire. We named the meet ups Ngamai because the Australian ecosystem thrives after fire, seeds sprout and flowers bloom,” she said. 

Ngamai was among four businesses to receive funding through LaunchVic, the state government’s start-up agency.

Barayama (an Indigenous-focused start-up accelerator), Global Sisters (regional workshops for start-up thinking and incubation) and Ngarrimili (rural workshops for start-up thinking and incubation) also received a share of the funding.

Non-Aboriginal Australians are three times more likely to be involved in entrepreneurship than Aboriginal Australians, according to Census data.

But, according to LaunchVic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples make up two per cent of Victoria’s start-up founders, while representing only one per cent of the state’s population.

LaunchVic CEO Dr Kate Cornick said she was pleased the funding would provide support to an important part of the community.

“We’re thrilled to be supporting the selected organisations and anticipate the programs will support Aboriginal entrepreneurs in Victoria to continue to go from strength to strength,” she said.

Feature image by Myf Garven.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (