Key points:

  • Indigenous enterprises come together in Canberra
  • ‘Meet the Supplier’ event held to bring Indigenous businesses together
  • Designed to boost Indigenous business sector and close gaps
  • Over 55 Indigenous suppliers and 200 government procurement reps

Last week, possibly the most important gathering in the history of the Indigenous enterprise sector came together in Canberra. Personally, it was a privilege to be part of the occasion. The event was a ‘Meet the Supplier’ function which sought to bring together Indigenous businesses and procurement people from various Federal Government departments. This event came about due to the new federal government Indigenous Procurement Policy which came into effect on the 1st July. The policies are designed to boost the Indigenous business sector, which will in turn flow on to ending some of the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians; by way of a targeted amount of federal government budget spend that has to be provided to Indigenous businesses.

My first visit to beautiful Canberra was so valuable, in terms of seeing for myself, just how much genuine goodwill there is at the top levels of government to ensure the new policy will be successfully implemented. It is now up to us, the Indigenous business sector, to help the agencies meet their objectives by being ready, willing and able to take up the opportunities that are going to come flying thick and fast.

The event was a bit crammed, with 55 Indigenous suppliers and apparently over 200 government procurement representatives buzzing about excitedly in a room that maybe was better suited for 50 people at the most. As they say though, if you’re at a party and you can swing a cat without hitting someone, it’s not a good party. Therefore it was a great event with a definite buzz of business talk in the room.

The event was arranged by The Department of Environment and to me, it was a very effective event. Given the new federal government procurement policies that came into effect on the 1st July, it was an opportune time for those with buying authority within all of the federal agencies to actually meet the people and businesses who the new policies were aimed at. This was not just the ‘run of the mill’ networking event where you stand around awkwardly with strangers and talk about the weather. The procurement teams are now obligated to purchase millions of dollars’ worth of goods and services from Indigenous businesses every year. Those buyers need to know who those businesses are, what they offer, whether they can deliver, where they are based etc. Therefore, the event was a direct business-to-business (with targets that have to be met) occasion. It was the best ‘networking’ event I have ever been involved with, and the opportunity to personally meet the authorised buyers was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The number of Indigenous businesses who attended the event is a key indicator to how timely these new procurement policies are for the Indigenous business sector. Given that the Supply Nation directory currently has over 300 certified and registered businesses on their database–and only 55 were able to either attend or send a representative to the most valuable ‘meet and greet’ in the history of Indigenous business–speaks volumes about the dire state of the sector at the moment.

Further to this point, only 4 businesses from WA (that I am aware of) made the journey, even though there are currently 324 businesses registered on the WA Aboriginal Business Directory. Not so long ago the WA Indigenous business sector was arguably the strongest in the country, being propelled along by the booming mining industry. For such a small number of WA businesses to be able to attend this event only highlights even more the timely procurement targets now being mandated within the federal government procurement teams. It’s time for WA Indigenous businesses to think outside of the mining industry and consider how to diversify in order to participate in government supply chains.

All Indigenous businesses should now be celebrating these new policies and building their capacities, capabilities, branding, online profiles etc, to increase their opportunities to win work from the federal government. Ochre offers expert consultancy in the areas of entrepreneurship, tendering, financial management, HR and IR laws, business development, marketing and branding to name but a few. We would be more than happy to assist other Indigenous businesses to build their capacity in order to secure a financially stable future through these new policies, which have been designed to end the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

To highlight further that Ochre can assist other Indigenous businesses be successful in this space, I am pleased to announce that Ochre has been awarded several contracts with a federal government agency since the policies came into effect.