Dentsu enshrines First Nations ownership into Cox Inall Ridgeway

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Dentsu-affiliated Indigenous social change agency Cox Inall Ridgeway has implemented a market-first governance structure to enshrine First Nations staff ownership. 

With founding partner Dr Aden Ridgeway stepping back from the business, the Aboriginal and Torres Islander staff at Cox Inall Ridgeway created the Cox Inall Ridgeway First Nations Employees Trust to take control of Dr Ridgeway’s 51% shareholding in the business. 

General Manager of Cox Inall Ridgeway Yatu Widders Hunt said the Trust structure allows the shares to be held in perpetuity by the First Nations staff working at Ridgeway. 

“The structure is not about one person, it is about all the First Nations staff who work at Ridgeway. It allows us to distribute business profits via the Trust to First Nations staff, another reason to come and work at Cox Inall Ridgeway,” Yatu said. 

Cox Inall Ridgeway was founded in 2007 by Dr Aden Ridgeway and Cox Inall managing director Tim Powell. The business is now 49% owned by dentsu and 51% owned by the First Nation’s staff trust. 

“To my knowledge, this is a unique ownership structure for an agency in Australia. I am thrilled dentsu supported and encouraged the Ridgeway staff to develop this structure and grateful for Aden’s guidance as we moved through a succession plan,” Tim Powell, dentsu Chief Public Relations Officer ANZ said. 

Dr Ridgeway has stepped back from the agency to pursue a number of other interests. He is a board member of the Healing Foundation, Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Cooperative and is continuing his role as Independent Assessor for the NSW State Government Aboriginal Reparations Scheme, as well as enjoying spending more time on Gumbaynggir country. 

“Working with Aden for the past 15 years have been a rare pleasure,” Mr Powell said. 

“He is an intellectual and cultural giant and deserves more recognition in how he has quietly shaped Australia. It was Aden Ridgeway who negotiated the Native Title Act with John Howard in 1993. 

“Aden has been a Senator, a champion of land rights and co-management of Aboriginal Land and supporter of Indigenous businesses in tourism. He loves the arts (and the Rabbitohs) and was a long serving -chair of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. 

“Most of all Aden thinks deeply about Australia, about First Nations people and about how a political, cultural and economic healing can be achieved to make us a whole and fairer nation,’ Mr Powell said. 

Dr Ridgeway will continue to play a role as a senior cultural advisor to the Ridgeway team. Day-to-day management of the business is now in the hands of General Manager Yatu Widders Hunt.