Dr Dhara Shah and Professor Michelle Barker, Griffith University. (Photo supplied)

A unique networking opportunity for intercultural interactions and business linkages between Indian and Indigenous women entrepreneurs was presented last month in Cairns. Dr Dhara Shah and Professor Michelle Barker from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, Griffith University led a delegation of 10 Indian women innovators who were selected to come to Queensland as part of a 2-phase project titled “Going Global”. The project was funded by the Queensland Government’s International Education and Training Partnership Fund through Study Queensland and project partners included Central Queensland University, Cairns campus, the gen[in] consortium, and Study Queensland (Trade and Investment Queensland).

Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie, CQU. (Photo supplied)

The first phase of the project involved masterclasses held in Bangalore and New Delhi for Indian women Innovators with a social element to their businesses. Ten of these women were then chosen for a week-long Bootcamp in Queensland. This included a trip to Cairns that involved meeting local entrepreneurs in a two-way learning process about doing business in Queensland and India. The Bootcamp comprised visits to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Cairns.

During their first day in Cairns, the Indian women met indigenous woman entrepreneur Charmaine Saunders and her team at her boutique “Mainie which embraces Fair Trade ethics and is committed to supporting women in isolated Aboriginal communications to earn an independent income from their own work and preserve their 60,000-year-old cultural heritage for future generations”. This was followed by an evening welcome function with a welcome from Mayor of Cairns, Councillor Bob Manning, and community leaders and a traditional ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony. It was co-hosted by CQU’s Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie, the First People’s Think Tank, and the Hilton Hotel Cairns.

Indian women had an opportunity to mingle with Indigenous women entrepreneurs along with local and state politicians as they shared a beautiful Indian dance performance. The women commented on the richness of their interactions and the opportunities this had provided them. Dr Shah said:

‘Hearing about the amazing work the Indigenous and Indian women were involved in really helped me see the synergies between the two and their cultures and how they both wanted to help people in their communities’

Day two involved a very stimulating forum hosted at CQU’s Cairns campus between Indigenous and Indian women about their challenges and journey. Indigenous women entrepreneurs spoke about their journey as entrepreneurs in such diverse areas as the Law, textiles, the electricity industry and community services and welcomed the Indian women to also share their triumphs and challenges as entrepreneurs.

In the afternoon, the group travelled to the Yarrabah Aboriginal community established on the traditional lands of the Gunggandji people to meet with the Mayor of Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council, Ross Andrews, along with one of the Community’s Councillors, Nadine Cannon, and the Manager of the Yarrabah Arts and Cultural Precinct, Darrell Harris.

The women learnt about the complex history during which Aboriginal and some South Sea Islanders were forcibly relocated to Yarrabah. They gained an appreciation of the indigenous culture through talking with the women elders, Indigenous artists and touring the Arts and Cultural Precinct.

The women were unanimous in stating that the trip to Cairns was a major highlight and learning experience during the intensive Bootcamp. They commented on how enriching the experience was for them and most of them were already planning to capitalise on the linkages they had made with the indigenous women entrepreneurs.

Professor Michelle Barker commented: “It was an incredible privilege to accompany the Indian women as they met with Indigenous women entrepreneurs and discussed potential linkages, especially in the area of arts and local crafts.

“It was a rare honour to be invited to sit in a circle with the leaders of the Yarrabah community, to meet the artists, and to learn first-hand from them.”

More photos are available on the BSI Connections photo gallery.