Dean Jarrett, a PhD candidate at the University of Technology, Sydney, has been awarded the 2015 Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship to advance his research into supply diversity, Indigenous entrepreneurship and social enterprise.
The scholarship will support Mr Jarrett, a proud Gumbaynggirr man, in conducting research into supplier diversity and development in the United States, in particular within Native American communities.
“My research is looking at the socio-economic and cultural impacts of Indigenous entrepreneurship and social enterprise,” Mr Jarrett said. “How does Indigenous enterprise and social enterprise impact on the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia? Have employment and educational levels improved because of Indigenous enterprise and social enterprise within specific communities? Are there flow-on effects in housing and health?
“I’ll be looking at the economic contributions of Aboriginal businesses and how that grows the local economy. I’m interested in the link between business and those broader socio-cultural impacts – the success not just of the business but of the community.”
In particular, Mr Jarrett will investigate better practice in “supply diversity”. Supply diversity aims to ensure that corporate and government supply chains reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, just as workforces should reflect the gender and cultural diversity of the populations within which they sit.
“In the US, I’ll be looking mainly at Native American communities and any similarities or differences with Indigenous enterprise here – whether we can learn from what Native Americans have done in their communities,” he said.
His work in the US will contribute to the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.
'I’m interested in ... the success
not just of the business
but of the community.'
UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said Mr Jarrett’s research was important because it would give Australian society a deeper understanding of exactly how Indigenous people engage in the economy and the real and positive impacts for the community.
“This is a story that isn’t being told loudly enough or often enough,” Professor Brungs said. The research would feed into the thinking of government policy makers and into corporate procurement and social responsibility programs.
Professor Michael McDaniel, Director of the Jumbunna House of Learning at UTS said Mr Jarrett was testament to the power of education and a role model for young Indigenous people.
“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people education is one of the most important factors in levelling the playing field. Indigenous Australians have always played a part in our nation’s economic and cultural fabric, and it will be worthy to quantify this contribution.”
Mr Jarrett said he never set out to be a role model but he hoped his story would inspire others.
“At one stage, my family lived in a tent, with no electricity and no water. We were five kids living on the side of a railway line and we used to catch the train or punt to the nearest school … Knowing what it’s like to live in poverty and to come to where I am now, that’s a story in itself,” he said. “I hope my story will give people inspiration to be able to go on and achieve whatever they want.
“Education has been an anchor for me for a long time. In terms of education, I’ll never stop. I’ll do a PhD now, but does that mean I’ve stopped learning? No. It just creates opportunities for me to learn even more.”
'This is a story that isn’t being told
loudly enough or often enough'
Professor Larissa Behrendt, one of Mr Jarrett’s PhD supervisors and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS, said Mr Jarrett’s scholarship was a testament to his hard work and was well deserved. “Dean’s research will have a positive impact with Indigenous communities and it is wonderful to see him get this support,” she said.
Fellow supervisors Dr Bronwen Dalton, Director of the Masters of Not-for-Profit and Social Enterprise Program at UTS Business School, and Dr Jenny Green, Program Director of the Postgraduate Community Management Program, said the research would underline the role corporate Australia could play by committing to supply diversity.
“Tens of thousands of Indigenous Australians are engaged in highly successful businesses,” Dr Dalton said. “This is a story of resilience, independence, entrepreneurialism and corporate partnership.”
As part of his role at UTS Business School – where he was the first Indigenous intern under the university’s Wingara Indigenous Employment Strategy – Mr Jarrett is developing a subject offering new perspectives on Indigenous economics.
“Aboriginal people have been trading for thousands and thousands of years – trade and industry isn’t new to us,” he said. “What is new is that we are now getting access to do it in a contemporary, culturally safe way. And it is how we will develop.”
The Fulbright Indigenous Scholarship was established in 1993 to recognise an Indigenous leader's commitment to achieving excellence, while seeking an international perspective and collaboration through their studies or research.
Photo: Fulbright scholar Dean Jarrett will travel to the United States to study Indigenous enterprise in Native American communities. Credit - Nathan Rodger