Jahna Cedar Supporting Indigenous Business

Supporting Indigenous Business: Jahna Cedar OAM, Executive Director, IPS Management Consultants

IPS Management Consultants acknowledges the traditional custodians of the many lands on which we live and work. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

Why would you buy from an Indigenous business? It’s a great question.

When we talk about the importance of Reconciliation in Australia, conversations around growing the Indigenous business sector are at times overlooked. Reconciliation Australia’s vision for national reconciliation is based on these five inter-related critical dimensions that need to be progressed to achieve full reconciliation, these dimensions include: race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, unity, and historical acceptance.

A key to this inter-related reconciliation jigsaw is Indigenous business growth. We know from research that every dollar spent with Indigenous businesses creates $4.41 of economic and social value. These businesses are also 100 times more likely to attract and retain Indigenous employees (Supply Nation, The Sleeping Giant, 2016).

Successful Indigenous businesses provide not only leadership, but they also create a foundation for economic independence and self-determination. They are role models for the wider community. These businesses provide income and jobs for an increasing number of families and people, and reinvest money in training, community projects and other Indigenous businesses.

Indigenous businesses drive healthy outcomes for communities, break the cycle of poverty and welfare dependence, and provide hope and purpose for the future.

The growth of Indigenous business in Australia

When Supply Nation identified the Indigenous business sector as the ‘sleeping giant’ of the Australian economy back in 2015, they were on the money.

Supply Nation is the peak body for the sector in Australia, now representing some 2800 diverse and growing businesses – including IPS Management Consultants. When Supply Nation was started by Indigenous entrepreneur Michael McLeod and his non-Indigenous partner Dug Russell in 2009, there were 13 Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander businesses and 32 government and corporate members.

The growth since then has been staggering. In percentage terms, Indigenous business sector growth is comparable with some of our strongest growth sectors including mining and resources.

The sector has been supported in recent years by Government policy designed to drive growth and opportunity. The Federal Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy was launched in 2015 to stimulate Indigenous entrepreneurship, business, and economic development. By mandating that government departments and agencies procure services from Indigenous businesses, the policy aims to significantly increase the rate of purchasing from Indigenous enterprises.

In 2019-20, over 918 Indigenous businesses secured more than 7,749 Commonwealth contracts during the 2019-20 financial year. As of 9 October 2020, these were valued in total at $857 million. Most states have now followed suit with their own Indigenous procurement policies.

While the statistics are impressive, the real success within the sector is in the stories.

Indigenous Business Success

An Indigenous Business Consortium formed last year in the South West of Western Australia, in recognition of the critical need for a strong local Indigenous business sector.

The Consortium came together to drive advocacy, awareness, and opportunities in the Indigenous Business sector – and to keep work in the South West. Each member of the Consortium is a majority Indigenous-owned business, who work collaboratively to build both the individual and collective capabilities of the sector, in line with goals of self-determination and business success.

Initially launching with seven members, the Consortium now has more than 20 members. Many of these businesses have already grown their capabilities.

Buying from Indigenous businesses

So, what can we do as consumers?

Buying from Indigenous businesses is a real and practical way to support social change, to lead the way in reconciliation, and to combat unconscious bias. Your dollar is being spent locally, you are supporting Indigenous communities, and the stories you tell about it put the focus on a thriving sector.

Procuring from Indigenous businesses

So, what can we do as businesses, corporates, or governments?

Every dollar you spend on Indigenous businesses creates $4.41 of economic and social value. If we are to see real reconciliation and equality amongst Indigenous communities, we need to work towards equal accessibility to procurement in both corporate and government organisations.

About the author

Jahna Cedar is a Nyiyaparli/Yindjibarndi woman from the Pilbara region of Western Australia and is recognised as a strong Indigenous community leader. She has worked for over 18 years advocating for equal rights and reconciliation of Indigenous people and has represented Indigenous Australia at the United Nations in New York, on three occasions. In 2012, Jahna was the youngest person to be elected into the West Australian International Women’s Day Hall of Fame and in 2017 proudly won Business news 40 under 40, First Amongst Equals. Jahna was also awarded Telstra Business Women Awards WA – For Purpose and Social Enterprise Winner in 2017.

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