Examining the diversity of Indigenous businesses in Australia

Dr Zannie Langford of the Griffith Agribusiness team has collaborated with Supply Nation to produce a detailed analysis of Australia’s Indigenous businesses sector in a post-pandemic landscape.

Supply Nation is the Australian leader in supplier diversity, and since 2009 has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, along with the procurement teams from government and corporate Australia, to help shape the rapidly evolving Indigenous business sector.

The geographies of Indigenous business in Australia: An analysis of scale, industry, and remoteness combines data from Supply Nation, the Office of the Registrar for Indigenous Corporations, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics to highlight the diversity of Indigenous businesses in Australia and provide insight on the differences between businesses in different industries and locations.

Registered charities and not-for-profit Indigenous enterprises

“With the upcoming Voice referendum, a lot of political commentary has emphasised the gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, but it is important to also recognise where success has occurred,” Dr Langford said.

“The Indigenous business sector is a striking example of this. Having doubled in size in just five years, it’s now worth an estimated $10 billion in annual revenue.

“Much of its growth has been driven by the Indigenous procurement policies of government and private companies, which have provided opportunities for Indigenous entrepreneurs across Australia to build businesses which provide employment opportunities and services in some of Australia’s most remote areas.”

Data provided by Supply Nation on member businesses reveal that smaller Indigenous businesses employ Indigenous workers at twice the rate of larger businesses, and businesses based in regional and remote areas employ Indigenous workers at twice the rate of those in major cities.

The report revealed differences in revenue in Indigenous employment outcomes between businesses based on their size, industry, and remoteness to inform more targeted policies that will continue to support the Indigenous business sector to grow.

Indigenous procurement policies have been hugely successful in supporting the growth of the Indigenous business sector, however benefits have been concentrated in a relatively small range of sectors.

“In 2022, just three organisations (The Commonwealth Department of Defence, Fortescue Metal Group, and Rio Tinto) were responsible for more than half of the total spend with Supply Nation registered businesses. These organisations require services in specific industries, but do not support the growth of Indigenous businesses in others,” Dr Langford said.

“Similarly, a previous supply Nation report found that female-owned businesses attracted only 14% of the total contract revenue of Supply Nation businesses.

“A strong understanding of the sectors, regions, and entrepreneurs benefiting most from procurement policies is necessary to support Indigenous businesses in a wide range of contexts.

“These findings can inform more targeted policy to support the Indigenous business sector to grow and more effectively provide benefits to all Indigenous Australians.”

The full report published by Supply Nation can be found here.

For-profit Indigenous enterprises