Laurie McDonald has gone from being homeless at the age of 16 to building a double-digit property portfolio by the age of 40.
She’s one of the women who make up 34 per cent of all Australian business operators.
But even starker, she’s one of the few Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander women who account for less than one per cent of all Australian business operators – 0.2 per cent.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show this is changing, however, with this number growing 33 per cent from 2006-2011.
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister and Cabinet says that "it’s signs of a positive shift", but doesn’t come as a surprise for Mrs McDonald, a Nugunnawal woman, who has also been named in the HeR Business (formerly Australian Businesswomen’s Network) 2016 Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame.
The starter of short-term rentals company, Canberra Furnished Accommodation, has since 2003 built her business up to include more than 50 residences across the city. The business attracts local, national and international guests from corporate, government and diplomatic backgrounds, as well as Canberra locals and visitors.
She says business-orientated skills have always been an innate quality among Indigenous people, as being able to trade and negotiate was a way of life.
Mrs McDonald believes the change is foreshadowing what is to come.
“Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in business is critical because it will bring another dimension that hasn’t been recognised as yet, and those skills can benefit the whole community,” she says.
“Nothing has changed, it’s just people’s eyes are opening and it’s an awakening, which is a great thing.”
Mayrah Sonter, director of 33 Creative, a company which focuses on empowering, inspiring and engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, says it’s an exciting time.
She says there are many talented, successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in business who are inspiring more young ones to take the leap and start their own business.
“I don’t think I can recall any Aboriginal business women owners growing up,” Ms Sonter says.
“Now I know many who are doing exciting work, creating change and being successful in business.
“Some of the greatest women I know are fabulous business owners who inspire me. They are creating a life for themselves, their families and communities through running successful businesses.”
Mrs McDonald was also the 2009 ACT Businesswoman of the Year, a finalist in the Telstra Business Womens Awards and is the winner of the Telstra 2013 ACT Micro-business Award. She has earned a seat on the Board of the Canberra Business Chamber.