Starting life in an Anglican boys’ home, Opportunity International Australia founder David Bussau launched his career as an entrepreneur at age 15 with a rented hotdog stand. Twenty years later, and with numerous successful businesses to his credit, he reached what he refers to as the ’economics of enough’.
In 1974, with his young family in tow, David travelled to Darwin and headed up a national movement to assist the victims of Cyclone Tracey. Soon after, he began aid work in Bali, Indonesia to help with an earthquake recovery program. As he helped out, he realised traditional aid and development solutions may help, but they did little to actually break the cycle of poverty.
It was during this time that David became a pioneer of microfinance, before the term even existed. He offered a small loan of $50 to a struggling Indonesian farmer named Ketut Suwiria. The loan enabled Ketut to buy a sewing machine and start a tailoring business with his wife. Having grown his own sustainable business, Ketut was able to repay the loan. He even went on to run an import/export business and own a fleet of taxis, giving other people in his local community employment, too.
After seeing the difference the loan was making in Ketut’s life, David provided loans to 20 other people. These flourishing small businesses not only provided for the basic needs of families in poverty, they also gave mothers and fathers confidence, dignity and respect.
As loan after loan was repaid and recycled, David was inspired. He sold his businesses and established Maranatha Trust to provide small loans to people living in poverty so they could become entrepreneurs in their local areas.
During the same time, another businessman on the other side of the world, Al Whittaker, had been trialling a similar concept in South America. In 1979, the two joined forces to form Opportunity International – a network of organisations now giving a hand up out of poverty to millions of families in more than 20 countries around the world.
Now retired from Opportunity, David continues his work by providing consultancy services to governments, multinationals and other organisations. He has been recognised for his amazing work by being awarded the Order of Australia; named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2003; chosen by The Bulletin magazine as one of ‘Australia’s 10 most creative minds’ and awarded Senior Australian of the Year 2008.