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Why this project?

Indigenous businesses are significantly contributing to the Australian economy and the improved circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their families and communities through social and economic empowerment. Yet a significant gap still exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous business ownership. It is estimated that more than 31,000 new Indigenous businesses are required to close the self-employment gap.

The Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (PM&C) released the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy (the Strategy) in February 2018 to help more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people build sustainable businesses that will support themselves, their families and their communities. Consultation conducted to develop the Strategy found that:

  • Existing government business support services do not meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Indigenous businesses are looking for "connected and meaningful business advice”
  • Indigenous businesses are looking for support that is timely and suitable to their needs and stage in the business “life-cycle".

Current state support mapping

Mapping of current business support available to Indigenous businesses (both Indigenous-specific and mainstream) was conducted for the Federal, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory regions. The graph below shows the combined support available from these regions with respect to its availability along the key stages of the business lifecycle. Note that a single program can support a business in more than one stage, therefore a program can be represented multiple times.

Overall it can be seen that the number of mainstream support programs is greater than that for Indigenous-specific support at each stage. Indigenous businesses preferentially target and are more aware of Indigenous specific support, and as a result there is lost opportunity for Indigenous businesses to use mainstream support to address their business needs. The bulk of support occurs at the startup, growth and maturity stages, which tapers towards the start and end of the business journey. Increasing the number and kind of support available at these critical stages could be considered to ensure businesses are adequately prepared to start and operate, and to exit their business at the right time.

Numbers of Indigenous-specific support programs during the Business Lifecycle Journey:

Preparation: Generation of business idea and development. Skills development, market research and planning.

Startup: Business establishment and early stabilization. Monitoring cash flow, establishing market presence and refining business model.

Growth: Growing market presence, customer base and sales. Strategising for further growth of business.

Maturity: Established brand and market presence. Increased market competition, slowed growth with max sales reached.

Transition: Pivoting of business strategy. Exploring new opportunities for business sustainability, regrowth or reposition.

Exit: Selling the business. Falling of sales, developing plans and preparing the business to be sold.

Project challenge

How might we better ensure government support programs meet the needs of Indigenous businesses and are easy to access, to support the growth of a strong and vibrant Indigenous business sector?

Project approach

To address this challenge, the project sought to provide a deep understanding of the needs of Indigenous business owners, their current experience engaging with government support and how it could better be delivered. To do this, we conducted one-on-one interviews with Indigenous businesses and stakeholders (government and community sector) in Sydney, Darwin, Cairns, Thursday Island and Katherine. From our interviews, we identified key themes and areas of opportunity. We validated our findings with business owners and stakeholders in workshops in Sydney, Darwin and Canberra, and co-designed preliminary ideas to address our opportunity areas.

Acknowledging the cross government nature of this challenge, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has partnered with the Department of Jobs and Small Business, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and NSW Department of Industry.

41 interviews and 3 ideation workshops with 25 businesses and 14 stakeholders.