The brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police sent shockwaves through the world. Like Indigenous Australians who have died in custody, Mr Floyd’s death is far from unique. The fact that his killing was filmed and widely distributed brought the harsh realities of racial violence and institutional racism to mainstream attention. People gathered in support around the world, asserting once again that #blacklivesmatter.
The tragedy of George Floyd’s death was met with solidarity amongst Indigenous Australians, who suffer similar forms of discrimination, over-policing, incarceration and violence at the hands of police and custodial officers. The words “I can’t breathe’ were uttered by David Dungay as he lay dying under the weight of prison guards. Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous took to the streets to protest the racial profiling, lethal force and neglect repeatedly used against black men, women and children. This resounded loudly in the time of COVID-19, with Indigenous Australians being more vulnerable to the virus than the general population.
There has been impressive growth in the Indigenous business sector in recent years. But this trajectory is at risk from COVID. Now Indigenous businesses face even more hurdles that they do in normal times, not the least because of the predominance of small and medium sized enterprises in this sector. Survival and growth will be difficult for many in these economic conditions. In terms employment, Indigenous Australians are also much more likely to have their work affected by COVID-19 because of historically established barriers to employment, as well as higher likelihood of working in casual and seasonal jobs.
With change comes opportunity. But how can the development of a post COVID ‘new normal’ further the development of Indigenous business, increase procurement and protect or grow Indigenous employment in Australia? What are the responsibilities of non-indigenous businesses, and big business