Indigenous business helped by entrepreneurs capital scheme

SIGNIFICANT  changes to Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) – including a new Indigenous Entrepreneurs Capital Scheme – are aimed at supporting a wider range of Indigenous businesses at various stages.

The Federal Government announced in May it was “reforming Indigenous Business Australia”. Already, Indigenous business participation has been raised in certain projects, such as the Townsville Stadium, and the new procurement policy has seen extraordinary growth in contracts awarded to 708 Indigenous businesses over the past 18 months.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion released the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy Consultation Paper at Supply Nation’s Connect Conference in Sydney on May 3. He said the government was committed to “co-designing the reforms with the Indigenous business sector”. 

Mr Scullion said the Federal Government had committed to an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package that included developing the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy road map for growing the Indigenous business.

He said the paper released at the conference, for stakeholder consultation, drew from feedback from Indigenous businesses, entrepreneurs and the financial sector in consultations held around the country since the Coalition was re-elected in 2016.

“The Indigenous Business Sector Strategy is particularly timely because of the significant increase in demand that our policies have created for the products and services provided by Indigenous businesses,” Mr Scullion said.

“The Indigenous Procurement Policy has been a game-changer for the sector and over its first 18 months, 708 Indigenous businesses have won more than $407 million in contracts – an extraordinary jump on the $6.2 million they were awarded in 2012-13.

“We are now extending its principles to infrastructure projects like Northern Australia roads investment and the City Deals. The Townsville Stadium to be built under the first City Deal will include targets of 6.6 percent for Indigenous jobs and procurement.”

Mr Scullion said the suite of new initiatives would help grow the Indigenous business sector and keep up with demand.

Many Indigenous businesses have told us they want assistance to access private sector finance products with all of the sophisticated infrastructure and networks that come with being part of the mainstream financial system,” Mr Scullion said.

“To facilitate this, we are looking to establish an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Capital Scheme that will work with Indigenous businesses that cannot access mainstream finance to connect them to a bank or financial institution, and de-risk the loan if needed.

“We are also looking to ramp up the support services available to Indigenous businesses including through business hubs, mentoring and back-office support – and we are seeking the views of Indigenous businesses about what kind of services they want.”

Mr Scullion announced significant changes to IBA to focus the organisation on helping start-ups and Indigenous entrepreneurs who need intensive support or tailored products that financial institutions will not provide.

“From July 1, 2017, we will be changing IBA’s funding arrangements to focus it on supporting entrepreneurs who have low intergenerational wealth and need greater support,” Mr Scullion said.

“These initiatives are on top of the $90 million Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund that the Coalition has committed to to help remote and regional Indigenous businesses get a foot in the game.”

Indigenous business leader, Warren Mundine, welcomed the reforms.

“In order to continue the success of the Indigenous Procurement Policy and other initiatives that are driving demand for Indigenous businesses, we need to increase the number of Indigenous-owned businesses that have the capacity and access to finance necessary to perform the work,” Mr Mundine said.



Broncos score a $5m bonus to help Indigenous girls

ANOTHER $5 million pledge from the Federal Government will add 1000 places in the Beyond the Broncos Girls Academy for Indigenous girls across northern New South Wales and southern and western Queensland.

The program, fronted by the Brisbane Broncos NRL club, aims to mentor and encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait girls and offer them career and educational pathways that have not been available before. 

Brisbane Broncos chief executive officer, Paul White, said the announcement by Federal Indigenous affairs Minister Paul Scullion was “a wonderful affirmation of the Beyond the Broncos Girls Academy program”.

“The club is very proud of the work the program is doing to empower young women both academically and in their general lives, and is looking forward to partnering with the government to exponentially expand those opportunities," Mr White said.

Mr Scullion, said the funding would also provide continued support for the existing 300 places in the program.

“The Beyond the Broncos Girls Academy is a great program that provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls with an opportunity to be mentored and encourages increased school attendance while building leadership skills and developing career pathways to further education and employment," Mr Scullion said. 

“Investing in the future of women and girls has a significant benefit not only to them as individuals but also for their family and broader community. 

“This program is a great example of how the Coalition Government is delivering on its commitment to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.”

Federal Member for Brisbane, Trevor Evans, said he was proud to represent a sporting club that provided so much to the community.

“The Broncos have a strong history of giving back to the people that have supported and barracked for them, and the Beyond the Broncos Girls Academy is just one of many important programmes they run,” Mr Evans said.



Aboriginal communities join Pacific highway upgrade

ABORIGINAL communities along the Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the Pacific Highway upgrade have been informed and invited to participate in construction and other work on the project by the New South Wales and Federal Governments.

“The overall Pacific Highway upgrade between Port Macquarie and Ballina has roughly 10 percent Indigenous employment and we are looking to increase this participation for the Woolgoolga to Ballina section,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said.

“This is regional Australia's largest road infrastructure project and a key part of the Australian Government’s record $50 billion infrastructure investment package. We are determined to ensure the benefits — including thousands of jobs — are shared right across the community.”

NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey said it was important the local Aboriginal workforce had every opportunity to be involved in an infrastructure project of this size. Information sessions were conducted in April and early May.

“Drivers only have to look outside their car window to see the extensive work to upgrade the highway, but they might not see the efforts being made to ensure the local Aboriginal workforce was engaged,” Mrs Pavey said.

NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Sarah Mitchell said she was proud the government was building a workforce that reflected the diversity of the communities the Pacific Highway passed through.

“The Pacific Highway runs through the heart of regional New South Wales and while the government is building big infrastructure projects, it is also investing in the futures of both the local and Aboriginal communities along the highway’s length,” Mrs Mitchell said.

“A number of initiatives are already in place including implementing contracts with higher mandatory Indigenous participation, direct engagement of Indigenous companies to provide fit-out of contractor offices and using local Indigenous artists to design art for one of the project vehicles.”

Work on the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade is expected to start mid-year. The national government aspiration for Indigenous business and employment participation in major infrastructure projects is 10 percent.



Down to business: the PM’s new Indigenous Advisory council

THE Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council has attracted several new members with strong business backgrounds, as well as substantial policy expertise.

Notable among the joining members is NPY Women’s Council CEO Andrea Mason, who was the Australian Businesswomen of the Year in 2016 and is currently the Northern Territory Australian of the Year. Ms Mason’s NPY Women’s Council is a highly regarded organisation committed to delivering youth and well-being programs and addressing domestic and family violence.  

Also joining the council is Stronger Smarter Institute founder and chairman, Chris Sarra. Apart from his many qualifications in education, administration and psychology, Professor Sarra is renowned for his business acumen and is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and an honorary fellow of the School of Ethical Leadership at the Melbourne Business School.

University of Wollongong Indigenous Health professor Ngiare Brown is a Yuin nation woman from the South Coast of NSW who is also the foundation CEO of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association. Among her many credits as a senior medical practitioner in the areas of public health and primary care, she has also studied bioethics, medical law and human rights.

Others joining the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council include Winun Ngari Aboriginal Corporation CEO Susan Murphy, New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council chairman Roy Ah See, and Djambawa Marawilli, a traditional owner from Baniyala and an accomplished artist who co-ordinated the 2002 sea rights claim in the Blue Mud Bay region of North East Arnhem Land, won in the High Court in 2008.

The appointments reflect the expertise and innovation that exist in Indigenous Australia and we look forward to working with the new Council to drive better outcomes for our First Australians,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. These appointments are for three years. 

“The new Council will play an important role by engaging at the heart of Government, including with the Indigenous Policy Committee of Cabinet, collaborating with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, and ensuring the government is well positioned to renew the expiring Closing the Gap targets in the year ahead.

“The new Council members will meet and provide advice to the Government on the final makeup of the Council and its terms of reference. This will include engaging with other Indigenous Australians who have requested to be on the Council.”

Biographies of the new Council members