Be resilient, tenacious, learn, grow and accept challenges as they arise – that’s the message from Melissa Lacey, who has just been named Canberra’s Indigenous Business Woman of the Year.
Founder of the ACT’s only all-female Indigenous information and communications technology (ICT) and recruitment company, Point River Networks (PRN), Melissa received the honour at the 2021 Rubik3 Canberra Women in Business Awards.
A highlight of the awards night was to receive the title from Aunty Violet Sheridan, who also gave the event’s Acknowledgement to Country.
A proud Wiradjuri woman, Melissa, who was born and bred in Canberra, was rewarded for her tireless work providing support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
“It’s really wonderful to be acknowledged for all the hard work [co-founder] Sally Cumper and I have put into our business, Point River Networks,” she says.
“Winning these awards recognises the importance of Closing the Gap, with a specific focus on employment, education, ICT and STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].
“It also demonstrates that in our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community women are strong leaders and entrepreneurs, engaging with and controlling our destiny.
“The PRN story, our hard work and determination, hopefully inspires young Indigenous women to be confident and start their own businesses.”
The business name, Point River Networks comes from Darlington Point, in regional NSW, where Melissa’s mother, grandparents and great grandparents grew up.
Melissa can trace her heritage back to the Warangesda Aboriginal Mission, recalling trips back to Darlington Point with her brother and sister to be with her grandparents and extended family.
The river reference is the Murrumbidgee River that flows through Darlington Point and past the mission.
“The river represents our journey, starting and building our business, developing our capability, knowledge and experience and delivering outstanding constantly evolving solutions for our clients,” says Melissa.
She says the river also represents the flow of information between her company and her clients.
Melissa says there are now plenty of opportunities for young Indigenous women in business, particularly in Canberra.
“In my experience, Indigenous women have a particularly important role to play in commerce, starting and growing a business, bringing unique perspectives, and forging pathways for their daughters, sisters, aunties and mothers to follow,” she says.
“While PRN’s mission is to support pathways for Indigenous people into the ICT sector and cybersecurity, there are lots of opportunities in many fields to get involved in.
“If you have an idea you’re passionate about, write it down. Our mob has always had a strong and vibrant culture and we have a wealth of ideas to draw upon.”
Melissa says it is important for young women to find a mentor, a teacher or a leader “who can empower you and support your journey”.
She attributes her success today to the “amazing” role models and mentors she had in her early life.
“My mum, Lorraine – who is courageous, fierce and bold – told me my whole life I can be whoever I want to be,” says Melissa.
“My sister, Alison, is an inspiring, driven and talented athlete who made the top 10 draft in the American WNBA. My good friend and business partner, Sally Cumper, is always there to support me. She is my confidant who has a wealth of business nous.
“At university, Professor Tracey Bunda encouraged me and was instrumental in me completing my degree. In my professional career, Ms Carlyn Waters showed me just how inspirational and effective a leader can be.
“I feel so proud to be in a position at Point River Networks where I can provide mentorship and leadership for Indigenous Australians.”