Indigenous AFL star Shaun Burgoyne says private enterprise is key to Closing The Gap

15 November 2021

Hawthorn champion, Shaun Burgoyne wants to foster greater entrepreneurialism within Indigenous communities.

While he’s heartened to see the national discussion on Closing The Gap intensify, Burgoyne believes the important role private enterprise plays is often crowded out in favour of more emotive issues.

“We won’t close the gap if we don’t address the intergenerational economic inequality being experienced by Indigenous Australians,” Burgoyne says.

As a result, Burgoyne has launched commercial cleaning & maintenance company ACS Indigenous, an initiative specifically focussed on creating long term career and procurement opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

Burgoyne is chair of the AFL Players’ Association Indigenous Advisory Board and has recently been appointed to sit on the AFL’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council.

He says he plans to use the leadership skills he’s developed in sport to help create greater pathways for Indigenous employment.

“I’ve seen the huge difference career opportunities have made for myself and my family,” he says.

“I’m passionate about running a successful business enterprise that directly benefits Indigenous communities.”

Burgoyne points to the Closing The Gap Report, which shows failed targets to halve the gap in employment outcomes – with only around 49 per cent of indigenous employed, compared to 75 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.

“I’d like to see the narrative and debate surrounding Closing The Gap shift a little, to focus on the benefits of entrepreneurship, to provide tangible outcomes for our communities across Australia,” he says.

“It’s well known – and the Closing The Gap report states it – that greater employment participation opens the door to self-determination and flows on to improve health, social and emotional wellbeing, and living standards.”

They are sentiments echoed by entrepreneur and philanthropist, Andrew Forrest who in a recent Boyer lecture spoke of a two-track reality facing Indigenous entrepreneurs, resulting from systematic racism, intergenerational disadvantage and economic exclusion.

“More needs to be done to break down these barriers, and we can start now,” says Burgoyne.

Victorian-based cleaning company, ACS Property Services is partnering with Burgoyne to grow the initiative.

“We’ve worked together to develop an Indigenous Participation Plan that is structured according to the pillars of Reconciliation,” says ACS Property Services’ Managing Director Lewis Igini.

“We aim to help increase the Indigenous employment level to three per cent by 2021 and support entrepreneurism within communities,” he says.

Learn more about ACS Indigenous: acspropertyservices.com.au/acs-indigenous

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