Rare Birds networking event

International Women's Day

Helping First Nations women create economic impact

4 minute read
Rare Birds networking event

Inspiring Rare Birds event

When Marrawah Law Founder and Principal Solicitor Leah Cameron’s mum showed her an excerpt from Women’s Weekly about a mentorship program, little did she know it would have such a positive impact on her business.

As a Palawa woman from Tasmania, Ms Cameron decided to enrol in the Inspiring Rare Birds National Women’s Business Scholarship in 2018 in the hopes of developing a personal brand for her business Marrawah Law.

Over 12 months, the program had a significant economic impact on the lives and businesses of women who received a scholarship. These included Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders, regional, rural or remotely located, migrants or refugees, those from a low socioeconomic background, or women with a disability.

This mantra of inclusion is reflected in the 2024 International Women’s Day theme #InspireInclusion which aims to forge a more inclusive world for women. When women themselves are inspired to be included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.

As a direct result of implementing the skills learnt in the mentoring program, both Ms Cameron’s firm and public profile were substantially boosted, with staff and client numbers almost doubled.

“I had mentors in the past and was guided by some really incredible women, so I applied for it and the area I wanted to focus on, as I needed help with marketing my business and my personal brand,” she said.

“At the time, I was based in Cairns, Queensland, and it was hard to connect with those specialists in some of the major centres, so I was paired with an incredible marketing and public relations expert.

“Inspiring Rare Birds connected me with someone who really suited how I like to do business – with a real personal touch.

“We were able to adapt a plan and work slowly together in a way which suited me.”

Mentorship success

Ms Cameron is just one of 100 female entrepreneurs who completed the program over 2017-18.

According to the Office for Women 2018 Activity Report: Inspiring Mentoring Scholarship Program for Marginalised Women, 91 per cent of participants felt their business would grow over the following 12 months and 87.5 per cent felt more confident about their business capability.

The scholarship program has since run a second time in 2019-20, and Inspiring Rare Birds Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jo Burston said it was particularly beneficial to women due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Inspiring Rare Birds Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jo Burston

“Women had clearly been affected more due to the loss of casual roles, a downturn in their businesses, loss of access to childcare, home school and other circumstances – they found it tougher to retain their economic security,” she said.

“Economic security is the ultimate goal for these programs."

“We know when women run their own businesses and their businesses succeed, they become more independent and more confident.

“Because of that, they rely less on social systems and they make their own financial decisions for their personal, family and community wellbeing.

“We know for every $1 a woman earns in profit, 90 per cent is reinvested back to the education, health and wellbeing of their family, children and community.

“Meanwhile, men only reinvest 40c of the $1 back.

“When women are financially secure and viable, their investment back into themselves drives community and gross domestic product.”

Mentors through all stages of life

Almost five years on, Ms Cameron is still in touch with her mentor today, describing the program as mutually beneficial.

“It’s been lovely to reach out to my mentor every now and then and give each other an update as we go on with our different journeys,” she said.

“My mentor said I shared things with her which made her think about her business, so it’s a good challenge for the mentors too.”

Ms Cameron recommended all women in business to embrace mentorship programs, as the guidance received was invaluable.

“It is hard for women in business to connect with mentors because we have a lot of responsibilities – whether it be kids or broader family responsibilities, we often put ourselves last.”

“This is a way to put ourselves first," she said.

“We can gain learnings in a way that is accessible.

“It is in a user-friendly and female-focused format, and I felt really comfortable – I was able to be vulnerable to talk about my fears as a businesswoman and the things that were holding me back such as developing a personal brand.

“You need mentors for all stages of your life, not just for when you’re starting out.”

Where to from here?

AIM WA is currently accepting applications for First Nations leaders for the BEEDIYAR program.

BEEDIYAR ('bood-ee-ah'), the Noongar word for 'leader' is AIM WA’s landmark executive development program for First Nations leaders. It aims to fast-track Indigenous professionals into executive roles, fostering a new generation of CEOs, directors and senior executives.

To find out how you and your organisation can be a part of this unique program, contact Program Director Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM at beediyar@aimwa.com or 08 9383 8070.