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As Australia celebrates NAIDOC Week 2020, it is vital to put the spotlight on Australia’s thriving Indigenous businesses. We celebrate up-and-coming and experienced Indigenous entrepreneurs and look at how companies can support and procure from Indigenous businesses.
There are currently up to 16,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Australia. This number is set to grow to over 18,000 in the next five years.
“The Indigenous business sector is one of the fastest growing in Australia,” said Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell.
“Supply Nation data shows the number of Indigenous businesses is growing by 12.5 per cent each year.”
Research from Supply Nation has found that for every $1 of revenue from an Indigenous business, Certified Indigenous Suppliers generate $4.41 of social return.
Indigenous businesses are also more likely to employ other Indigenous people. This means that supporting and procuring from Indigenous business is also an investment in sustainable Indigenous communities.
Kieran Hynes, Founder of Willyama Services, started his Indigenous-owned IT business because he noticed an acute issue with Indigenous employment.
“I saw a lack or representation of Indigenous people in the IT sector and the Government in general. So I set up Willyama with the goal of increasing Indigenous represent in the federal IT sector.”
Willyama’s vision is to be “the leading majority Indigenous-owned professional services company in Australia” across its area in expertise.
However as Australia’s only national Indigenous-owned IT security firm, realising this vision has not been without its challenges.
“The Government and a number of firms have initiated Indigenous procurement policies, which allocates certain opportunities to Indigenous owned businesses. But there is a big challenge in defining what an Aboriginal business is,” said Mr Hynes.
“You can have minimal representation in a business or they can nominally hold 50 per cent shareholding in a company but not get revenue as a 50/50 partner.
“The challenge is that pre-existing businesses are putting Aboriginal people in engagement positions but services are being provided by non-Indigenous partners.”
David Parkin, Managing Director at Luggarrah, also emphasises the need for businesses to engage with Indigenous-owned businesses with proper representation.
“Who’s behind the organisation is important … it needs to be majority Aboriginal-owned.”
Mr Parkin says that listening, both to Indigenous-owned businesses and also the community, is vital to a successful and rewarding partnership.
“[Businesses should be] having those Indigenous-owned businesses drive the conversation with where they’re wanting to go … [businesses should be] listening as well and playing an active role,” said Mr Parkin.
“I would highly recommend people and organisations actually go out and be involved in Indigenous communities and listen … rather than try have a solution and force an opinion, just listen and observe, and take things in and build those relationships with community.”
Mr Hynes also calls for a more outcome-oriented metric for evaluating the success of Indigenous procurement policies.
“All the trends in Indigenous business appear to be around how much money is spent by Government in Indigenous business, but no one is tracking how much that is doing in closing the gap – for instance how much is it actually improving health and employment outcomes for Indigenous people.
“We need to change the narrative from how much the Government is spending to how much of an improvement there is in the metrics that the Indigenous procurement policies were intended to improve.”
Many Indigenous businesses have also been particularly affected by the pandemic, so it is more important than ever to support the Indigenous business ecosystem and community.
“While Indigenous businesses provide services across a range of industries, there are a number that have been hit hard by the COVID crisis, such as those businesses relying on the tourist trade,” said Ms Carnell.
“It’s especially important that we support these businesses as much as possible as they work to recover from this difficult period.”
To find out more about NAIDOC week, click here: https://www.naidoc.org.au/