October 2019 marked the 5th year of Indigenous Business Month, and with its ever-growing presence and prominence on the calendar, it’s increasingly important that we highlight the successes achieved in the Indigenous business sector. And it’s a time to reflect on the challenges and to collaborate on solutions. Because, frankly speaking, the Indigenous business sector is here to stay and its impact is far reaching, its growth rapid and offers many opportunities to get involved.
We want to highlight the amazing job done by the co-founders of Indigenous Business Month, Michelle Evans, Leesa Watego and Mayrah Sonter, to grow the Month from strength to strength over the 5 years since its inception.
For those of you who are new to Indigenous Business Month, “Indigenous Business Month is an initiative of the MURRA Indigenous Master Class Program (MURRA) alumni, to promote the variety and depth of Indigenous businesses nationally and to provide an Indigenous business voice to the national conversation.” (https://www.indigenousbusinessmonth.com.au/about/)
It’s great to see all of the activities that are taking place around Indigenous Business Month across Australia. For a list of the events see the Indigenous Business Month website.
We (NGNY) attended a few events, one hosted by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, called ‘Meet the Buyer’, the second a networking event hosted by 33 Creative and the last, a seminar and workshop called ‘Indigenous Ingenuity’ hosted by Rebecca Harcourt at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), with the School of Business.
Permanent initiatives like Indigenous Business Month are very important for the growth and connectedness of the Indigenous community and businesses in Australia, but are also a platform for non-Indigenous Australia to connect one-on-one with Indigenous businesses and community. The many forums and events that take place around Indigenous Business Month provide a means for sharing stories, experiences, cultures and values amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
I spoke at the UNSW ‘Indigenous Ingenuity’ event about the importance of ‘outcomes’ not just ‘outputs’. With the increasing amount of money now flowing through the Indigenous business sector surrounding the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) and Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs), it’s critical that we ensure that the majority of this money is flowing back into our community to be able to invest this in sustainable change, impact and growth-based activities. We explore these ideas more in a recent article discussing the IPP and RAPs. It’s an opportunity for our community to further develop its independence, to benefit from widespread economic opportunities and to achieve self-determination. Fortunately, these programs have driven an Indigenous economy within the business sector. But, unfortunately, this opportunity is still far from reaching its full potential. There needs to be considerable activity undertaken to improve this. Firstly, we as Indigenous businesses need to lead by example by investing back into our people by all ways and means. Secondly, we need corporate and government Australia working to achieve impactful and sustainable outcomes that go beyond simply meeting business KPIs, RAPs and financial year targets or e political point scoring. The reality is, if you really focus on addressing outcomes-based objectives then this will in turn support KPI targets and political agendas, because you are investing in driving sustainable results.
You might be thinking, why are we at NGNY highlighting these points around the IPP and RAPs? Well, it’s because so many people, businesses, corporations and Government, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are hovering around the economic opportunity tied to this sector, but a lot of people see dollar signs and are drawn to engage only because it is helping them with their bottom line. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be economic opportunity for all to participate in this space, but the most important thing to ask yourself ‘Is the product or service that you are delivering or procuring creating sustainable impact? And, if so, how?’. My point here is are you coming in just to take money out of the Indigenous business sector (and subsequently the Indigenous economy)? Or are you engaging in this space to drive impactful and sustainable outcomes?
Indigenous Business Month gives us all an opportunity to discuss and collaborate on these key points of concern as well as discussing the successes. But there’s so much more potential to grow further beyond the status quo of the Indigenous business sector and understanding how this then flows through to community impact outcomes.
Indigenous Business Month is an annual occurrence and there’s an opportunity for all types of people and organisations to be involved. Here are some tips for you to consider for Indigenous Business Month 2020 and beyond. Get involved because this space is only just starting and its reach is getting bigger by the year.
Top tips to get involved in Indigenous Business Month:
- Visit the Indigenous Business Month website to learn more what it’s about
- Register to attend the many Indigenous Business Month events across Australia
- Register to host your own event
- Network and talk to Indigenous businesses. We love to share our stories and also hear about yours because we are on a shared journey of growth and opportunity
- Connect with the Indigenous Business Month team and ask them what you can do to support the organisation
- Connect with and talk to Indigenous business owners
- Look at how you can participate in procuring the products and services of Indigenous businesses
- Think about the knowledge, skills, resources and many other things that you could invest into Indigenous business, something that might be small for you could be significantly helpful and impactful to an Indigenous business. This supports capacity and capability development.