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Sabine Straver, Program Manager, iAccelerate. Image Credit, Mark Newsham

$1 million funding to support entrepreneurs in bushfire-affected regions

COVID-19 may have pushed the devastating 2019-2000 bushfires from the public consciousness, but many regional businesses are still recovering. However, the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery (BLER) Package, part of the $4.5 billion bushfire support program co-funded by the Australian and NSW governments, continues to assist regional communities to re-establish their local businesses.

The University of Wollongong’s (UOW) business incubator and accelerator iAccelerate has been awarded $999,570 from BLER to bring its program to ten bushfire-affected regions, including four Local Aboriginal Land Council areas. 

iAccelerate is one of 195 local community projects supporting economic or social recovery, strengthening resilience and delivering ongoing community benefit to bushfire-affected communities in NSW to receive stage two BLER funding. 

The project will deliver education programs to support 90 of the most promising entrepreneurs and business owners in bushfire affected areas to create 300 new jobs. 

Building on the success of the existing Bega Valley Innovation Hub, the new project will target bushfire-affected regions by offering entrepreneurs access to economic resilience programs for industry and business development. 

Who the program will help

The funding will allow UOW to work with specific local government areas (LGAs) to deliver the program through local facilitators. The program will roll out in the Bega Valley Shire, Eurobodalla Shire, Goulburn Mulwaree, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Snowy Monaro, Wingecarribee Shire, as well as four Local Aboriginal Land Councils. 

The program was developed in consultation with local government and in speaking to the local communities. 

Chris Petersilge, iAccelerate’s Ecosystem Evangelist, said that in addition to increasing economic resilience, the program would also help keep young people in the regions by providing employment and business opportunities. 

“Having launched the Bega Valley Innovation Hub in NSW’s far South Coast, iAccelerate is familiar with the challenges and opportunities faced with supporting regional entrepreneurs,” he said. “With over a decade of creating new industries and over 700 jobs in Wollongong, we’re ready to bring this model created in the Bega Valley to more bushfire-affected areas.” 

Support for indigenous businesses

As part of the project, UOW will be working closely with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council’s Yarpa Indigenous Business and Employment Hub (Yarpa) to deliver the program to bushfire affected Indigenous communities in NSW. 

Last year, Yarpa licensed the iAccelerate ‘Activate’ program to run a pilot for their entrepreneurs, working with the business incubator to adapt the job-creating program to the needs of Indigenous entrepreneurs in NSW to strengthen and grow the Indigenous start-up sector. 

This new project will build on the pilot to deliver more training, connections, and support for Indigenous entrepreneurs in bushfire-affected communities to help them start their own businesses as a form of economic independence and prosperity. 

“Yarpa Indigenous Business & Employment Hub is very proud to be in support of UOW through the delivery of the iAccelerate Activate program where this type of support is needed the most, the bushfire- affected areas,” said Westley Trist, Industry Relationship & Strategic Partnerships Manager at Yarpa Hub. 

“We view these opportunities as a catalyst for an economic bounce back within the regions meaning new jobs and stronger businesses. Being a materialisation for one of Yarpa’s main goals, ‘to pursue economic independence and prosperity for our people’, we enthusiastically look forward to the future of the program.” 

Read more: Why thousands of rural Australians are doing a happy dance

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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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