New innovation hub to support First Nations partnerships

18 Oct 2022

A new Indigenous-led innovation hub, which will support The Australian National University (ANU) in developing long-term partnerships and collaborations with First Nations businesses and communities, will launch next week.

Gandaywarra: First Nations Innovation Hub will provide access to resources and mentorship for Indigenous and non-Indigenous innovators, with the values of country, culture, community and prosperity embedded into everything it does. 

Michelle Jasper, a Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ngati Porou, Te Arawa woman from Aotearoa, Founder and Head of Gandaywarra, said the focus of the Hub is to build and activate a pipeline of strong, long-term partnerships and capabilities, which will enable First Nations communities, academia, industry, government and end-users to collaborate and innovate.

"Gandaywarra is truly innovative in its aspiration to do things differently within the ANU but also the broader economic ecosystem, by embedding traditional knowledge and practice into research translation, application and commercialisation," she said. 

Vice-President (First Nations) Professor Peter Yu, a Yawuru man from Broome in the Kimberley region in North West Australia, said the First Nations Portfolio is proud to launch Gandaywarra to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to develop, test, and scale up their ideas, products and endeavours. 

"Gandaywarra will provide resources toward approved projects that will promote autonomy and activation of the First Nations estate, for First Nations peoples to achieve economic self-determination," he said.

"In addition to creating a space to develop commercial innovations, income from Gandaywarra will support innovative policy and project work. 

"Through the First Nations Portfolio designing, testing and implementing policy reforms, we aim to enable Indigenous Australians to access and seize economic opportunities."

Michelle said that Gandaywarra will act as a vehicle to empower Indigenous Australians to overcome historic marginalisation and to become economically self-determined.

"Professor Yu often highlights the importance of self-determination, and in my language Te Reo Māori, we have a term Tino rangatiratanga, which roughly translates to self-determination, autonomy, or the power to own your own risk," Michelle said.

"Gandaywarra will provide resources toward approved projects that will promote this autonomy and activation of the first nations estate, for first nations peoples to achieve economic self-determination."

The marginalisation of First Nations people in the Australian economic system creates barriers of participation brought about by racism and bad policy, she said.

"This leads to low intergenerational wealth transfer, lack of employment and education capabilities, lack of access to capital and the relevant institutions distributing it, which then affects health, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals and communities," Michelle said.

"These problems not only affect the First Nations population but also impacts the current and future prosperity of Australia."

Michelle said the Australian First Nations business sector contributes more than $4.9 billion to the economy each year and is growing at a pace of around four per cent per year, accelerated by growing demand. 

"Our work with Gandaywarra will support First Nations entrepreneurs, adaptation and improvement of the ecosystem, create new and disruptive ways of thinking, and knowledge that will feed into policy making and evidence-based solutions," she said. 

"In turn, this will mobilise and activate the undervalued and often overlooked asset-rich First Nations economy here in Australia."

Gandaywarra is Wiradyuri for "Grow Long", to represent this long-term impact, and the name was gifted by Ngambri (Walgalu), Wallaballooa (Ngunnawal), Wiradyuri (Erambie) custodian, Paul Girrawah House.

With a focus on embedding traditional Indigenous technology, knowledge and practice into the already existing innovation ecosystem, Gandaywarra has brought on board Senior Project Officer, software developer and ANU School of Cybernetics Alumni, Matthew Heffernan.

Matthew said his focus is on creating systems that support Aboriginal people - not from a paternalistic government approach, but through self-actualisation. 

"As cool as technology is, and being able to create these types of systems, I think it's really important to build out the context in which these technologies exist, and make sure it's equally distributed and can benefit all communities," he said.

Matthew, a Luritja man, grew up in the Northern Territory in Papunya, a small community 240km north west of Alice Springs, and said self-determination for Indigenous economies is crucial. 

"We need to simultaneously be able to practice our traditional ways while also being enabled and permitted to either monetise that or participate on our own terms in the global economy," he said.

"In terms of fundamental community development, education is also important and can move people out of poverty, improving social mobility. Gandaywarra is looking to link the education and research elements of ANU into its projects."

Located within the ANU First Nations Portfolio, the Hub is also supported by the Office of Business Engagement and Commercialisation (BEC).

More information about Gandaywarra: First Nations Innovation Hub here.

Page Owner: Innovation ANU