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Challenging unconscious bias to Indigenous entrepreneurship

21 May 2021
Siddharth Shirodkar

During National Reconciliation Week 2021, we are sharing stories from our scholars that promote First Nations led and First Nations focused research.

Siddharth Shirodkar is a SRW PhD scholar from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA). His PhD, titled ‘Where are all the Indigenous entrepreneurs?’, investigates the barriers and pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to start businesses.

Siddharth made international headlines when he published a journal article on results of the Implicit Association Test, which showed that 3 in 4 Australian participants displayed an implicit or unconscious negative bias against Indigenous Australians. Results from over 11,000 Australians who took the test over a 10-year period found that around 75 per cent held a negative implicit or unconscious bias, regardless of their demographic.

"What was quite shocking was just how widespread that was across Australian demographics," Mr Shirodkar said.

"This study presents stark evidence of the solid invisible barrier that Indigenous people face in society … But the data is actually not about Indigenous Australians, it's about the rest of us."

The results show it is likely that many people who hold these views have no awareness of their bias.

As it is often unconscious, implicit bias can seep seamlessly into the everyday decisions at all levels of society

"What this data tells me more than anything else is we need to be really conscious about how we think about each other. We need to challenge the assumptions that we hold about one another," said Mr Shirodkar.

His timely research generated a national debate on the nature of racism. Siddharth spoke about the findings on breakfast radio and television news. His study was published in media outlets in almost a dozen countries worldwide, including CNN, TIME Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald and in News Limited media, reaching an audience of around 12.8 million people in Australia.

Siddharth has now returned to the public service, working in NIAA on enabling greater Indigenous economic participation across the sectors of growth in Australia. His area is looking at influencing the corporate sector, industry and governments to work with Indigenous Australians to boost economic participation through greater employment, entrepreneurship and ultimately wealth creation.

A key aim for Siddharth is to ensure that mainstream interests are aligned with improved opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous Australians, so that, “enjoying the full promise of Australia is a tangible and achievable aspiration for all.”

Siddharth’s research findings are published in the Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues.

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The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation is a partnership between The Australian National University, Charles Darwin University and the Australian Public Service.