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Back to their roots for Regent St Indigenous business owners

Indigenous business owners have set up shop in Redfern’s Regent Street, keen to participate in the growth of the area and, more importantly, its community writes Ben Falkenmire in the South Sydney Herald November 2006.

A chartered accountant, a physiotherapist and a couple who own a café are all first-time business owners with Indigenous heritage and a personal affinity with the Redfern-Waterloo area.

Raised in Aboriginal missions and the youngest of nine children, Anthony Ashby’s family moved to The Block where Anthony commenced primary school. After finishing university, Anthony worked for six years with accountancy firm Ernst & Young and then as Finance Manager for Darrell Lea.

He returned to the area four months ago to open his own chartered accountancy practice at 111 Regent Street.

Travis Touma’s family moved from Walgett in northern New South Wales into Sydney’s inner west where Travis began his Sydney life. Finishing Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney,

Travis worked in private practice for six years before deciding to open his own physiotherapy business at 105 Regent Street.

Ielene and her partner run Regent Café at 60 Regent Street. Their first venture into business signifies a return to an area where her partner once lived.

Having an affinity with the region was an obvious consideration for these entrepreneurs.

“I still have family that live and work in the Redfern-Waterloo area,” commented Anthony Ashby. “We specifically chose Redfern to ensure Indigenous business participates in the economic change that is currently taking place”.

“It’s significant for my family to open up a business here,” says Travis Touma, whose grandmother still resides in Waterloo and whose mother is involved with the Metropolitan Land Council on George Street.

None of the new business owners however, has sought assistance from outside the family.

“It’s pretty hard (going it alone) but the Government involves too much red tape, and doing it your self is the best way to learn,” explained Ielene.

“Indigenous people want control of their own destiny as opposed to being told what their destiny should be,” commented Travis.

The concept of an emerging Indigenous middle class does not sit well with these proprietors.

“I view a homeless person as the same as one who owns a waterfront Vaucluse mansion,” said Anthony. “It comes down to the individual and how focused and disciplined you are” - an attitude all are looking to embed in the community as Redfern begins a new era of transformation under the Redfern Waterloo Authority’s ten year revitalisation plan.

“Redfern has stalled in the last ten years but everyone knows the place is set to boom,” remarked Travis. “I would love to see the area thriving, too seethe Indigenous community thriving and everyone accepting each other for their rights and wrongs and intermingling”.

Anthony has a similar vision. “It would great to see a real business district in the area featuring a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses.”

Ashby and Co, Travis Touma Physiotherapy and Regent Café are all within walking distance from the Regent/Redfern Street intersection

[South Sydney Herald November 2006]

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