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Recent years have seen a growing awareness that the keys to Indigenous advancement and development are broader than social programmes and government policy. While these remain key enablers, increasing prosperity and the engagement of Indigenous people in the economy has become a stronger focus.
Stemming from native title agreements which began to emerge in the late 1990’s, barriers between Indigenous communities and the mining industry in particular, fell away over the negotiation table when it became apparent that Indigenous people sought much the same as all other Australians – prosperity, wellbeing, stability, employment and opportunity.
One of the important results of this has been the emergence of the Indigenous Business Sector. In WA, this has been propelled by the resources sector while at a national level, the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Procurement Policy has given rise to strong growth. In 2018 the WA State Government followed suit with a State based Aboriginal Procurement Policy.
Importantly, Indigenous business has been shown to have strong utility for Indigenous people with a study commissioned in 2017 by Supply Nation showing that for every dollar of revenue gained, Indigenous business creates $4.41 of economic and social value.
This study also illustrates that Indigenous business employs more than 30 times the proportion of Indigenous people than other businesses, create a safe place for employees, reinvest revenue into communities and, importantly, strengthen employee’s connection to culture.
While there are a number of large and mature Indigenous businesses in WA, generally speaking the sector is in its early stages. Indeed the sector remains small with estimates of its revenue ranging from AU$2-$5 billion across the nation. By comparison, the Maori business sector in New Zealand is estimated at US$50 billion.
Nonetheless, with an increasing understanding of the high level of utility the sector has for the prosperity and well-being of Indigenous people, and with greatly improved policy settings and initiatives from Government and Industry, Indigenous entrepreneurship is beginning to flourish.
This won’t resolve all the issues faced by the Indigenous community, but it will provide acceleration along the pathway of prosperity and success.