Competing against 21 other universities nationally, a team of 11 young entrepreneurs from the University of New England (UNE) took out the prestigious Enactus Australia Championships on Friday 5 July. Enactus is a global organisation, which brings student, academic and business leaders together to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.
UNE Enactus Team President, Rachel Price said the team was over the moon with the win after making it to the final round last year, but falling short of first place. She said the team had worked tirelessly on the projects, putting in over 5,330 hours over the past year, raising just under $115,000 and directly impacted the lives of 1,482 people.
Each team in the Enactus competition must develop, manage and report on outreach initiatives that address areas of human need. Teams must approach these projects as sustainable business enterprises, working to maximise returns to targeted beneficiaries.
The UNE team presented on three projects, addressing key issues in the New England region: Farming Futures, meeting demand for skills and careers in agriculture; Fin-Lit, focusing on financial literacy in local indigenous schools; and Minimbah, redressing the “identity crisis” facing under-privileged communities where many births aren’t recognised by a birth certificate or registration.
Ms Price said these weren’t just local challenges; they were national.
“We’re hoping each of these projects makes a fundamental difference to what are significant national problems. While we’ve started on a relatively small-scale, our vision for these programs to make significant changes to people’s lives all over the country,” said Ms Price.
Leader of the Fin-Lit and Minimbah projects Jason Artuso said a birth certificate in Australia was profoundly important as it is the primary document for citizenship.
“Without a birth certificate there can be no bank account, passport, driver’s license, tax file number, access to schools; the list goes on. Research is currently underway to understand the full consequences of not having a birth certificate. It’s clear that Indigenous communities in particular have a high incidence of unregistered births, without certificates.
“In the long-term the Minimbah project aims to gain legislative support to ensure every Australian receives a free, automatic birth certificate when born. In the short term, we’ve been raising money to fund the birth registration and/or certificates of over 1200 Australians,” said Mr Artuso.
Minimbah was born out of the Fin-Lit project, which equipped primary students and their families in predominantly indigenous schools with basic financial literacy skills.
“Part of the Fin-Lit program helped sign participants up to a bank account, however many students couldn’t without birth certificates. We found about 40 per cent of the indigenous population in the New England region didn’t have birth certificates. It’s estimated around 31 per cent of indigenous communities nationally don’t have birth-certificates,” said Mr Artuso.
The team’s Farming Futures project linked the many companies crying out for quality graduates from agricultural courses to the talent they’re after.
“Demand for graduates outstrips supply in the sector by a factor of four to one, yet 30 per cent of recent graduates aren’t employed. Through an agricultural career fair and an industry dinner, we’ve showcased the many professions on offer in agriculture and helped match graduates with leading employers,” said Ms Newton.
The UNE team will now proceed to the World Cup to be held in Cancan, Mexico - 29 September to 2 October 2013.