Kristal Kinsela: This is one Indigenous policy that really works
July 4, 2017
Kristal Kinsela: ‘Ultimately, buying from Indigenous business isn’t just the commonwealth’s responsibility, it’s everyone’s business.’ Photograph: Nathaya Kyriacou Photography
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Kristal Kinsela is a proud descendant of the Jawoyn and Wiradjuri nations. She is passionate about creating lasting pathways and growing the capabilities of Indigenous businesses and individuals. Kinsela was awarded the 2017 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year and the 2017 Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year. Both of these awards recognise her contribution in working with Indigenous communities, businesses, leaders and women across Australia.
As an Aboriginal woman and a business owner, I believe the Commonwealth Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) is probably one of the most effective Indigenous policies to have ever been implemented.
The IPP is a policy to increase the amount of Commonwealth Government contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses. It has three main components. First, it has a target for the number of contracts that need to be awarded to Indigenous businesses. Second, it has a ‘mandatory set aside’ for contracts valued between $80k – $200k, which means where a suitable Indigenous business is identified and available to deliver the required goods or services, that Indigenous business must be awarded the contract. Finally, it has minimum requirements for contracts valued over $7.5 million, which includes a clause to use Indigenous businesses in the supply chain for large contracts.
The company I co-own and partner, Indigenous Professional Services, works closely with Indigenous businesses and government departments to change management approaches to better implement the requirements of the IPP. This involves preparing businesses to be contract ready by improving their understanding of the IPP, what procurement is and how to win work. We’ve delivered workshops across the nation, working with over 200 Indigenous businesses. We’ve also conducted our own research in partnership with Supply Nation on the policy. Our report, titled ‘The IPP and Hearing the Indigenous Business Voice’, was released earlier this year.
I first went into business to create a job for myself, as I was living in a regional community without many employment options. I started out as a sole trader and struggled, hardly making any money the first year. In 2015, my current partners Katina Law and Damien Chalk founded IPS and in early 2016 invited me to join them. I jumped at the opportunity. Something in my gut told me they were a good fit for me. Our skill sets complemented each other and I knew I could learn from them. I didn’t know what was possible, but knew the IPP presented an opportunity to win business with the Federal government. And now, over twelves month later, we’ve exceeded our initial expectations.
We are proudly 66% Indigenous-owned, which means we are a certified Indigenous business. One day we hope to be the country’s leading reputable Indigenous-owned business consulting firm helping government departments and the corporate private sector solve their organisational issues. We are about social change, and our aim is to make a real difference for Aboriginal people through the projects we work on. This includes offering meaningful training and employment opportunities to Aboriginal people within our own business.
In terms of the Indigenous Procurement Policy, I think on the whole, the data speaks for itself when it comes to its successes. There are always teething issues with policy implementation, but targets have been exceeded in the 2015-16 financial year, with 1,509 contracts awarded to 493 Indigenous businesses, valued at a total of $284.2 million. Compare this to the data from 2012-13 when the government only gave contracts valued to a total of $6.2 million to Indigenous businesses. That is a massive jump in Indigenous economic development.
There are many great stories of Indigenous business success, but broadly speaking the IPP has revealed Indigenous businesses that provide a diverse range of goods and services, not just culturally-related output, as is so often the stereotype. There are Indigenous businesses who supply stationary such as Muru Office supplies, creative agencies like Gilimbaa and Carbon Creative, construction companies like Buri Building, and lawyers like Terri Janke and Co.
I believe the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet are hearing the Indigenous business voice. The initial investment to grow and support the Indigenous business sector is now informed by the experience of the last 12-months of the IPP. Refinements have been made to better suit our needs, but now more investment needs to be made in helping new Indigenous businesses navigate the procurement space.
I also believe that Commonwealth departments need to work harder to give Indigenous businesses greater opportunities to gain capability and grow. For instance, to gain capability, smaller pieces of work could be carved out for new Indigenous businesses to gain experience, with a view to creating opportunity for larger work in the future. And for growth, the government should be reviewing its future practices in relation to the ‘mandatory set aside’, as only 183 contracts were awarded to Indigenous businesses out of a total of 10,773 in the $80k to $200k bracket. Imagine what larger contracts would do for a growing Indigenous business? And the IPP could be most effective if the Commonwealth took a ‘hearts and minds’ approach. This means Commonwealth staff fully understanding the IPP and its intent. I’ve facilitated workshops where government officers have admitted to a ‘tick and flick’ approach to the policy. This needs to be addressed.
Ultimately, buying from Indigenous business isn’t just the Commonwealth’s responsibility, its everyone’s business. And everyone can play a role. Next time you need to buy something, jump on Supply Nation’s Indigenous Business Directory and see if there’s an Indigenous business who sells what you’re looking for. You will be pleasantly surprised.