Hailing from a country NSW town, Benson Saulo is a Wemba Wemba, Jardwadjali and Gunditjmara man hoping to use his new role to bring people together and build new economic relationships.
Nadine Silva

1 Jul 2020 - 9:54 AM  UPDATED 1 Jul 2020 - 9:54 AM

As a kid growing up in Tamworth, all Benson Saulo wanted to do was skateboard and play rugby for the Wallabies one day.

However, Mr Saulo’s dreams took a turn when his local ANZ branch took him on board as a trainee at the mere age of 15.

“It changed my perspective on the possibilities,” he told NITV News.

“It opened my eyes up to the corporate world and the finance sector, which a lot of our people have been excluded from or uninvolved in.”

Forging an impressive career path in both the private and not-for-profit sectors, Mr Saulo went on to hold senior roles at Australian Unity, ANZ, Good Shepherd Microfinance and PwC Indigenous Consulting.

Yet he “never imagined” representing Australia on a stage this big, he said.

At 32, Mr Saulo has become the first Indigenous Australian to be appointed a Consul-General.

His new role will be based in Houston, Texas. It's the hometown of George Floyd, a black man whose death at the hands of police on 25 May sparked international outrage and protests against police brutality towards black people.

Here in Australia, the Black Lives Matter rallies put a spotlight on the 437 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991.

“The importance of the timing of my deployment is something I don’t take lightly, and being the first Indigenous person in any context, you’re kind of breaking in a new ground, stepping in a new territory,” Mr Saulo said.

Mr Saulo believes his appointment is largely owed to the preceding First Nations peoples who’ve worked in different parts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“I know that the people who came before me have made my trek and my journey possible, and I just hope to be able to pass that on for other people as well,” he said. 

Through his new role, Mr Saulo is hoping to share his culture, connect First Nations people around the world and call attention to the global Indigenous economy.

“Over the last few years, I’ve been focused on how to shift finance from being transactional to being built more around relationships and impact.

“We know that Indigenous businesses are more likely to employ Indigenous people, they’re more likely to reinvest back into the community and so I think of it as an equation of impact.”

Mr Saulo believes that by building connections across borders and boundaries that support and invest in Indigenous businesses, “we’re going to see a significant shift in the outcomes of our people.”

He also hopes to bring people of different opinions, cultures and backgrounds together to have respectful and informed conversations.

While Mr Saulo’s parents came from humble beginnings, his father always told him never to think the world wasn’t his.

“My mother grew up in a tin shed with dirt floors on the outskirts of Bordertown in South Australia, and my father grew up in a remote village on an island in Papua New Guinea.”

In one generation, Mr Saulo said, “they’re seeing tangible change to attitudes, to society, to people in their own family through the achievements and opportunities I’ve been able to pursue”.

Despite being incredibly proud of her son, Mr Saulo’s mother has her concerns about his three-year post in Texas.

“She’s worried her 7-month-old granddaughter is going to come back with a Texan accent."