Regions flooded with entrepreneurial talent

Behind the doors of a nondescript building in an industrial estate in Toowoomba, dozens of people move between roaring machines and towering piles of white linen.

Regions flooded with entrepreneurial talent

Many of the Vanguard Laundry employees in regional Queensland are on a remarkable quest. They are refugees, survivors of domestic violence, or recovering addicts who are breaking new ground.

Laundry is a social enterprise that employs people with a history of disadvantage and actively helps them find other work once they have gained confidence.

General manager Harry Sillett said many Yazidi refugees start their Australian working lives at the laundry.

One worker, a mother of young children, said the work allayed her concerns that Australians view refugees as a burden.

“That showed me that if you involve people in meaningful, productive work, it does much more than give people a paycheck,” Sillett told AAP.

“It can give people dignity, purpose, and a sense of belonging.”

Mr. Sillett is one of 10 regional, and national social entrepreneurs awarded a National Ag Day and Westpac Agribusiness grant to attend a Social Enterprise World Rural Forum later this year.

Interest in social entrepreneurship is growing as people move more and more from the capital to the regions. It is a possible solution to shortcomings in rural health care and community services.

While geographic distance to capital cities can be seen as a barrier to success, Mr. Sillett believes it is an opportunity.

“There is an entrepreneurial spirit in the regions because if you don’t create it, it doesn’t exist,” he said.

“Many young people are willing to take a risk and expand.”

That appears to be the case in communities in the Northern Territory.

Enterprise Learning Projects, an indigenous mentorship and incubator organization, supports businesses specializing in everything from indigenous teas and beauty products to mining and construction.

Co-chief executive Alexie Seller, another grant recipient, said these companies could change the shape of communities, where teachers, shopkeepers, and police are often non-indigenous.

“As a young Indigenous person, it can feel like any job is out of reach,” said Ms . Seller.

“But entrepreneurship is showing a whole community differently. You can take another path, and it’s creative and your choice.”

A prosperous future for young people is at the heart of the Wilderness Collective in Mallacoota, on the coast of Victoria.

The collective, creating a co-working space, was inspired by the forest fires of December 2019.

Co-founder Mary O’Malley said young people wanted to live and work in their hometowns with a deep connection to their environment.

“We want to take care of this community and see the remoteness of the wilderness as a blessing, not a hindrance,” said Ms. O’Malley.

“We’ve been focusing on rejuvenation for the past few years, how we can be stronger and turn this around.”

Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.