Since its inception in 2015, the Federal Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) has empowered Indigenous businesses in the mainstream, including the 200-plus Indigenous businesses who won their first contract in the last financial year.

The Australian Government is one of the largest national customers, and with the IPP in place Indigenous businesses are ensured their fair share.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said through investing into Indigenous businesses, there are “significant flow-on effects to families and communities across Australia”.

“The IPP has meant that we have seen Indigenous people go into businesses and generate their own personal wealth through hard work,” he told NIT. 

“Our people are establishing businesses and they are employing our people.”

Through the increasing of contracts, the IPP has awarded $4.5 billion to Indigenous businesses since 2015.

Indigenous businesses receiving government contracts has significantly increased with industrial cleaning services growing 6,515 per cent from 2015 to 2020, fuels and fuel additives and anti-corrosive materials seeing a growth of 6,100 per cent, and commercial and military and private vehicles growing 23,300 per cent.

“[Indigenous businesses] are starting to move into new sectors too, contracts in engineering, research and technology services have grown from around $10 million in 2015 to $90 million in the 2021 financial year,” said Minister Wyatt.

“Contracts in IT, broadcasting and telecommunications have grown from $4 million to $45 million.

“We’re going into areas that we’ve never been before … and an important part is that this is skilling of our people in very specific areas.”

Minister Wyatt emphasised the unique ability of the Indigenous business sector to be innovative and adaptable to change — a trait that is particularly valuable in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also expressed his desire to see Indigenous businesses expand into international markets, and partner with other First Nations peoples across the globe.

“We should not stop at the Australian border, we should also have our businesses think about the way in which they can go into the global markets,” he said.

“I see the more innovative leadership in this area connecting to Canada, the United States and New Zealand global markets. They are forming alliances with First Nation peoples in other countries.” 

Part of the innovation of Indigenous businesses is finding opportunities to thrive, including the development of businesses within supply chains of larger corporate companies.

“When I was in the Pilbara, community leaders were telling me that they are now being involved in developing the industries that are involved in the supply chains for the major mining companies,” he said.

He referenced one organisation’s plans to hold equity in a mining company, a plan he describes as “thinking differently”.

“When we talk about becoming an equity owner of a company and investing in it, we’re doing that on the basis of thinking of our grandchildren,” he explained.

“Thinking of seven generations from now, because eventually when those minerals are gone, we’ve got to have other industries to move into.”

The IPP is a commitment the Federal Government has taken to empower the entrepreneurial spirit in Indigenous people.

“Our Government is really committed to building the notion of skills development, employment, wealth creation and entrepreneurial thinking,” said Minister Wyatt.

“Entrepreneurs now are creating a better opportunity for our young people for the future. It shows them that we can do what mainstream society does.” 

The Minister hopes to empower more women to move into developing their own businesses.

“Our women have done some incredible stuff … I want to look at other strategies that give opportunities for our women to develop their own businesses and flourish as equally as all of these others,” he said.

Referencing South Australian inventor David Unaipon, Minister Wyatt said that the entrepreneurial spirit is something inherit to Indigenous people.

“He showed that his inventions were ahead of their time … we’ve always had innovative, entrepreneurial people,” he said.

“Our people are now starting to really show that by the businesses they’re going into.”

By Rachael Knowles