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First Australians using tech innovation and digital smarts to improve community outcomes and grow businesses



As part of our efforts to build a strong digital future for all Australians, members of Australia’s First Nations communities were welcomed to Google Australia’s Sydney headquarters this week, where a new fund was announced for innovative projects that will help improve community outcomes — and a digital skills workshop was hosted for First Nations entrepreneurs and business owners looking to grow their businesses.

Launch of First Australians Digitisation Fund

INCO, a non-profit supporting the growth of Australia’s social enterprise ecosystem, announced the launch of its First Australians Digitisation Fund - an effort which aims to empower community organisations using technology to tackle inequities and improve access to areas of health, education and employment for First Nations communities.

Australians were already doing more things online, and this has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonprofit organisations working with First Nations communities across Australia are taking the lead to create long-term tech solutions which ensure a sustainable and inclusive pandemic recovery for everyone.

To support the growth of technology tailored to the needs of First Nations communities, INCO identified four nonprofits with initiatives that show evidence of reducing structural and cultural inequities. These nonprofits will share more than $750,000 in funding, awarded by INCO with support from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm. They will also have access to capacity building workshops, ongoing mentorship from Google employees and technical expertise.

Photo of [From left to right] Alex Schwarz, Partnership Manager, Clontarf Foundation, Andrea Goddard, Executive Director, STARS Foundation, Melanie Silva, Managing Director, Google Australia, Fiona Madigan, Country Program Manager - Australia, INCO, Reihana Nathan, Associate Program Manager - Australia, INCO

Caption: [From left to right] Alex Schwarz, Partnership Manager, Clontarf Foundation, Andrea Goddard, Executive Director, STARS Foundation, Melanie Silva, Managing Director, Google Australia, Fiona Madigan, Country Program Manager - Australia, INCO, Reihana Nathan, Associate Program Manager - Australia, INCO

The projects are:

  • IndigiTek (NSW) - a community-designed, community-led robotics and technology education program. As an extension to Indigenous education, the program provides alternate learning models or flexible options for First Nations communities to help build digital skills and literacy and open up new job opportunities in STEM related fields.
  • STARS Foundation (VIC) - an online ‘Alumni Engagement Platform’ to engage and inspire Indigenous girls. This will drive gender equity by enhancing visibility of STARS Alumni to inspire the next generation of First Nations girls and youth and ensure a positive pathway through employment, further education or training.
  • KARI Foundation (NSW) - a mental health app, co-designed with Indigenous peoples and community groups. The culturally-appropriate app will use storytelling and in-app wellness indicators to guide access to support services and information to break down barriers and stigma of mental health in Aboriginal communities.
  • Clontarf Foundation (WA) - robotic process automation (RPA) to automate data entry within its Academies. The project will allow its mentors more time to develop and deliver activities focused on increasing First Nations participation and engagement in education geared towards positive employment outcomes as they scale towards supporting more than 16,000 Academy members by 2025.

To celebrate the program’s launch, these four organisations were invited to Google's Sydney headquarters where they could connect with Google experts and explore how to further the impact of their tech solutions.

Throughout the pandemic, technology has been a lifeline. We hope the First Australians Digitisation Fund will continue to support innovation and partnership that bring technology closer to First Nations communities, to help shape their future for the better.

Upskilling First Nations entrepreneurs and business owners

We were also thrilled to welcome 40 First Nations entrepreneurs and businesspeople to our Sydney headquarters this week for digital skills workshops designed to help them grow their businesses. The Grow with Google workshop was delivered in collaboration with Supply Nation and Trading Blak and also featured artwork designed by Nungala Creative. The event was opened by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney MP.

At the event, businesses learned how to grow their presence online, gain valuable insights and connect with potential customers — and individuals at all stages of the digital journey picked up new skills.

Davina Shearer, of Google Australia talks to Indigenous business owners.

Caption: Davina Shearer, of Google Australia talks to Indigenous business owners.

There are so many great opportunities for businesses that have a strong online presence, and use the Internet to engage with customers and grow their business. But some aren’t yet sure how to go about it — this event was an opportunity to share digital tips and tools with community and Indigenous-led businesses. In order to capture this potential, and build a strong digital future for all Australians, businesses must be able to find people with the right combination of skills.

Mark Smith from Complete Doors in Sydney is a great example of a Indigenous business leader who is using digital tools including ads and online business profiles to build awareness of their products and engage with customers effectively.

Google Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan focuses on partnering with Indigenous communities to support their economic development and provide access to technology .

Grow with Google aims to create opportunity for all Australians to grow their skills, careers, and businesses with free tools, training, and events. It includes an online learning hub accessible from anywhere, on any device, with hundreds of handy training modules.

Thank you to Jodie Taylor, CEO of Supply Nation, Jarin Baigent, Co-Founder of Trading Blak, and to the local Gadigal people and broader Indigenous business community who made this initiative possible.