No better time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be in business

15 Jun 2018

The number of Indigenous businesses is growing by about 23% per year – which is almost four times higher growth than businesses owned by non-Indigenous Australians.


Almost 10 years ago, when the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs published a report of its findings into Indigenous Economic Development called, “Open for Business”, there was little known in Corporate and Government circles about an ‘Indigenous business sector’.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Australian Federal Government has reported over $1 billion in spend with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses since July 2015; and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) members have reported over $2 billion in spend since 2014.

The number of Indigenous businesses is growing by about 23% per year – which is almost four times higher growth than businesses owned by non-Indigenous Australians. The latest data indicates that there are now around 12,000 businesses run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and that there are around 600 new businesses founded each year.

Why is it important to continue to grow the sector?

Supply Nation’s research shows that for every dollar of revenue Indigenous businesses produce on average $4.41 of social return. They are up to 100 times more likely to employ Indigenous people, and Indigenous business leaders provide role models and leadership for other members of the community.

The impact of engaging an Indigenous business can flow much further than the business owner and their families – it can foster momentous change within a whole community. By supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs, a whole new generation of kids receives the role models they need to be able to achieve their dreams.

There are more opportunities, more employment and more training – and it all happens in a culturally safe and appropriate environment.

Supply Nation and our role in the sector

Supply Nation exists to connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses with the procurement departments of corporate, government and not-for-profit organisations to get them a ‘seat at the table’.

Over four decades of data from the United States of America shows clearly that a diverse supply chain has significant business benefits in terms of risk management, sustainability, innovation, flexibility, value for money and service.

Supply Nation not only works to educate our members about these benefits but also with government and business peak bodies to help implement policies and targets that will make engaging Indigenous businesses ‘the new normal’ for Australian procurement teams.

Supply Nation is working to shape an Australia where everyone has the same opportunity to build a business and achieve economic independence.

We do this by verifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses before they can be showcased on Indigenous Business Direct; by connecting our membership with Indigenous businesses through business matching, promotion of opportunities, and the promotion of the benefits of supplier diversity through training, consultancy and connection with global best practice.


One of the highest profile opportunities for connection we provide is our annual flagship event – Connect.

Each year in May, Supply Nation hosts a series of three events designed to support the growth of supplier diversity by sharing best practice, showcasing the diversity and vibrancy of Indigenous businesses and celebrating the success of the sector.

Connect 2018 was the largest yet, mirroring the growth of the wider sector – with over 2,300 people attending one or more of the events. The Indigenous Business Tradeshow was Australia’s biggest ever showcase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, with more than 1,000 buyers through the doors over seven hours.

Each year we have reports of millions of dollars of deals that are initiated at Connect – and each year we aim to produce an event that amplifies that impact.

Advice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owners

If you have a business that fits the eligibility criteria – my advice is to get registered on Indigenous Business Direct! A profile on Indigenous Business Direct provides a great opportunity to showcase your business to motivated buyers who are looking for the peace of mind of working with bona-fide Indigenous businesses.

Indigenous Business Direct is Australia’s largest national directory of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses – and it is completely free for Indigenous businesses to register. Registration is online and only takes around 15 minutes to complete.

Go to, and click the red ‘Join’ button in the top right of the screen and then follow the prompts. Once your registration is submitted, your profile will typically be live within 4 business days, provided you have all the necessary paperwork to hand.

Businesses that are at least 50% Indigenous owned are eligible to register on Indigenous Business Direct and are called ‘Registered Suppliers’. Supply Nation also recognises a further level of ownership – ‘Certified Suppliers’ that are 51%+ Indigenous owned, managed and controlled. The first step to becoming certified is to register and if your business is eligible, you will then be able to complete the certification process.

With over 1,500 businesses of all sizes already showcasing their businesses across all sectors, Indigenous Business Direct is not only mandated as the first point of call for Federal Government procurement teams seeking to fulfil their targets under the Indigenous Procurement Policy, but is also the central reference point for our 350 members to find Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses for their projects.


This article has been sponsored by RMIT University in lead up to the Ngamie Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Meet Ups: Thursday 5.30pm June 21, July 26, Aug 23 at the RMIT Garden Building Bowen Street, Melbourne.

Contact [email protected] for more info.   

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