'We are the future': Kristal Kinsela on the growth of Indigenous businesses

‘We are the future’: Kristal Kinsela on the growth of Indigenous businesses

Kristal Kinsela-Christie

Kristal Kinsela features on the AGSM @ UNSW Business School’s new ‘Business Of Leadership’ podcast, where guests from business, government, for-purpose and academia share their stories about leadership in today’s accelerated world. Each episode examines leadership in times of complexity and how we can see the world differently, rather than be transfixed by change. (Partner Content)

“When you’re an Indigenous person in the workforce, you tend to get pigeonholed to work in Indigenous identified roles or Indigenous focused work,” Kristal Kinsela shares in AGSM’s ‘Business of Leadership’ podcast.

It’s this kind of classification that Kristal, the owner and managing director of Indigenous Professional Services, works to avoid.

Indigenous Professional Services is an Indigenous owned consulting company that works with some of the most iconic brands and corporations in Australia. It offers a number of mainstream services that sets them apart from others in the industry.

“We knew straight away that we had skillsets and capabilities that were different, and we wanted to build a brand and build a reputation off the back of those particular skills and capabilities, that sits separately to us as Indigenous people,” Kristal says.

Indigenous Professional Services has just celebrated its fifth birthday and has fostered a solid presence and reputation in the consulting industry in this short space of time.

Kristal sits at the helm of the company but didn’t always have such high expectations for her career. She tells Women’s Agenda that when she left high school, she didn’t see herself as someone who would go to university. Instead she just wanted to focus on getting out of her small suburb in Western Sydney.

“I didn’t see myself as academic enough to go to university, and I just wanted to get out of Doonside,” she shares.

After leaving school, Kristal entered the hospitality industry for a while, but was eventually drawn to enrol in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult education degree– something her aunty had just completed and graduated from.

It was this decision that opened up several doors for Kristal and paved her career trajectory forward.

While studying, she landed a role working with Indigenous youth at her old high school and later began teaching at TAFE. She also held student advisor roles at universities before landing a job in policy at NSW Department of Education and Training.

With extensive experience across government, corporate and not-for-profit sectors, Kristal then launched Indigenous Professional Services, with a goal of facilitating and delivering programs for clients to create real impact on the ground.

“The areas I spend a lot of time working with my clients is in procurement, around diversity and employment,” Kristal shares on the podcast.

“Getting them to really think about, from an employment perspective, how they attract Indigenous people to come and work in their workspace. What does that look like? The environment? How would they support mentor, retain, develop Indigenous staff?”

She says that unconscious bias is a still a massive challenge she sees among clients of Indigenous Professional Services.

“I’m always constantly taking my clients on that journey around understanding what it is, that it actually does exist in workplaces, and how can we navigate through that,” she says.

She believes the best way to help people confront their own unconscious bias is to connect it to their own upbringing.

“Our program is centred around individuals connecting with their own upbringing, personal beliefs and behaviours and connecting it with unconscious bias. We see the greatest results from the training when people are open and willing to own their behaviour and really take steps to mitigate it in the workplace,” she says.

As a mother of teenagers, Kristal says her work in helping others confront their own unconscious bias and racism in the workplace has flow on effects in other parts of society.

“People don’t understand what it is like to be a black person in Australia,” she says.

And while there’s no silver bullet to overcoming racism, Kristal believes sharing Indigenous experiences is essential to creating change. It’s why she wrote this blog post in August, where she explained how she talks to her children about racism.

“Last night as I watched the news, my 13-year-old son walks in the room just as a police officer is shown tripping the legs of a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy, making him hit the ground hard and arresting him. I turned and saw his face in shock,” she wrote.

“Not wanting to cotton wool it, I said to my son, ‘son this why I don’t like you walking around the streets, because I fear you’re going to be picked up and abused by the cops because of the colour of your skin’. He said back to me, ‘I know mum, I know’”.

Kristal says many of her clients have read her blog posts, and reach out specifically to ask how they can raise awareness within their organisation about the Black Lives Matter movement and racism.

Looking to the future, Indigenous Professional Services is looking to scale its geographical presence, and will build an office and team in NSW. Bringing in new Indigenous talent will be essential to this development.

“We have worked out what we are really good at, and we plan to continue to deliver on these services, and bring in more Indigenous talent that we grow and develop with a pathway to ownership in our business,” Kristal says.

In the meantime, her aim is to continue working to encourage corporates and government to do more with Indigenous businesses, and help them implement the changes necessary to promote Indigenous leadership across the board.

“My legacy will see the growth of our sector and the number of sustainable Indigenous businesses skyrocket. We are the future, and everyone will do business with us.”

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox