We're launching two new MBA scholarships to support Indigenous students
Melbourne Business School is set to help more Indigenous leaders like Jennifer Beer make an impact on the world.
The scholarships were announced this month at the launch of the Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership, which aims to improve economic empowerment for Indigenous Australians.
"These scholarships represent one of the many ways in which we can play our part in cultivating future Indigenous leaders and supporting a vibrant and sustainable Indigenous business sector," says Melbourne Business School Dean, Internal, Professor Caron Beaton-Wells.
For Dr Beer, who goes by Jen, studying an Executive MBA helped her gain confidence to take on senior leadership roles, including her current position as Head of Education and Health, Regional and Remote, at NBN Co.
"Being able to learn about topics that I'd had limited exposure to, such as operations and finance, really helped build my confidence," she says.
"The MBA gave me the ability to understand and contribute to conversations with all parts of the business, and most importantly, ask the right questions.
"These scholarships will give other Indigenous people the opportunity to expand their skills and take on leadership roles, which is so important to realising Dilin Duwa's goal of Indigenous economic empowerment."
As well as working at NBN Co, Jen also sits on the Indigenous Advisory Group for Dilin Duwa and the board of Zoos Victoria – roles that seem a lifetime away from her humble beginnings in Perth.
A proud Darlot woman from the Western Desert Region of Western Australia, Jen originally began her career in a very different field by chasing a childhood dream.
"Growing up, my childhood dream was to be a vet. Our poor family pets – they had to put up with me constantly treating their pretend injuries!"
After working as a veterinary surgeon for several years, Jen then turned her skills to the community sector.
"I was working for a small not-for-profit foundation running community engagement programs to encourage community members to be involved in their schools and sports clubs," she says.
"It was a small organisation that required us to wear many hats – program management, community engagement, marketing, business development, to name a few. We even created a smartphone app and content management system that digitised how we measured engagement. This became a critical success factor for funders, and also a fun way to involve more people – in particular, youth – in the program."
During her time at the foundation, Jen realised she needed to develop her business skills to compete with other organisations in the sector, so she enrolled in the MURRA Indigenous Business Program – which changed everything.
"MURRA brought together such a diverse representation of Indigenous businesses in Australia. Your colleagues really do become your family over the duration of the course, and beyond," Jen says.
"And the academics who gave up their weekends and had a genuine desire to help us succeed. They actively sought our perspectives and knowledge and were just as keen to learn as we were."
Jen enjoyed the experience so much that after completing MURRA, she decided to double down and study an Executive MBA as well.
"I don't tend to do things by halves," she laughs. "It was at the point when my car was being loaded on the trailer, and all of my belongings were in boxes that I distinctly remember thinking 'What am I doing?'"
That decision eventually led to her role at NBN Co, where Jen works with key stakeholders and regional and remote communities across Australia to ensure providers, patients, teachers and students understand the connectivity they have available to participate in virtual care and online learning.
Jen is also focused on driving digital inclusion, so people have the tools and skills to get the most out of what telehealth and online learning has to offer.
"Connectivity and the role it plays in enabling digital health and education has never been more important, in particular for Indigenous Australians," she says.
"From a health perspective in particular, we are hearing the many benefits that health practitioners, clinics as well as patients are experiencing in regional and remote communities across Australia where connectivity has improved their timely access to quality healthcare services.
"Examples of this include in East Arnhem Land where Wi-Fi calling access, through nbn Sky Muster Plus, enables medical staff to coordinate emergency retrievals at any time of the day or week through to telehealth services allowing greater continuity of care with staff being familiar with patients."
For more information on the new scholarships, visit the MBS Foundation Indigenous Leadership Scholarships page.