Bringing First Nations expertise to the cyber security fight

The rise of Australia’s First Nations’ business sector has been substantial over the past few years. Indigenous businesses verified by Supply Nation grew more than four times faster than the overall economy between 2015 and 2019.

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Baidam Co-Founders Phillip Jenkinson and Jack Reis

However, there are still many challenges facing these businesses. How do Australian companies ensure they are engaged and providing opportunities for First Nations businesses? It’s a vexed question.

"Quite apart from the dollar value, we are also focused on the outcomes they bring for First Nations businesses and encouraging Indigenous entrepreneurship.”

At ANZ, we understand one area where we can have significant impact is through our procurement choices and we have implemented several initiatives to ensure our staff are aware of the many Indigenous businesses the bank can partner with.

For example, we’ve made it easier for our staff to find First Nations businesses by adding a button on the front page of our ANZBuy purchasing system. We’ve also moved all Indigenous suppliers onto preferential invoice payment terms.

Last year, we spent more than $12 million with 32 First Nations suppliers – double what we spent the previous year. But quite apart from the dollar value, we are also focused on the outcomes they bring for First Nations businesses and encouraging Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Many of the Indigenous businesses we deal with have different motivations to non-Indigenous businesses. A Supply Nation report found that for every dollar of revenue, Indigenous suppliers create $4.41 of economic and social value, whether through employment or giving back to community.

A great example is First Nations-owned software and cyber security company Baidam Solutions. Since its founding in 2018, the company has built a growing business providing software and cyber security services to both government and corporate clients.

ANZ recently signed on as a customer and we’ve been impressed with Baidam Solution’s program to provide educational and employment opportunities for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people looking for careers in the growing software and cyber security area.

Baidam’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Phillip Jenkinson said the company distributes 52 per cent of its profits back to First Nations Community outcomes, including creating employment opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles through Indigenous student sponsorships. In effect creating technology role models for young Indigenous kids.

This includes two lifetime scholarships for Indigenous STEM students to the Australian National University in Canberra and The University of Queensland. Baidam also recently opened the world’s first co-designed Indigenous staffed and managed Security Operations Centre in central Brisbane.

“We want to allow for more Indigenous involvement in the national technology community,” Jack Reis, Group Chief Executive Officer and co-founder said. “We are facing a very diverse threat landscape in the cyber security world. We want to harness the critical and problem-solving thought processes of a diverse workforce, including First Nations people.

“Not only does that strengthen our defence against cyber threats, it brings different thinking that will solve problems in a different way. That is the great benefit of diversity in this field.”

Queensland-based Baidam employs 27 people at locations in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and serves customers nationally. It provides information and communication technology services to companies including Origin Energy, NRMA, AGL, Rio Tinto, BHP, Flight Centre and Wesfarmers as well as Federal and State Government Departments and not-for-profit organisations.

Because university education does not suit all aspiring internet security workers, Baidam also sponsors a variety of technical certifications for young First Nations people. By helping them achieve certification pathways, Baidam not only provides the technical enablement but helps to increase financial independence. Not just for those workers but for many others in the community who rely on them for support, Jenkinson said.

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Baidam Co-Founder Jack Reis

In 2022 alone Baidam sponsored 10 students to complete globally recognised certification processes from organisations including the SANS Institute. Seven of those students were women and all are now working in security operations centres from ASX-listed companies along the east coast, Jenkinson said.

“We invest in training and certification for these kids, not to employ them ourselves but to push them out into the market as qualified operators to work for other world-class companies. This helps create more and more role models for young Indigenous kids,” he said.

As well as the benefits in fostering First Nations people to gain experience and employment in the burgeoning cyber security area, there is another long-term benefit from ANZ’s perspective.

The more we work alongside emerging players like Baidam, the more we encourage a broader field of companies to help disrupt the established players in the field.

And the benefits of financial independence and empowering the First Nations community cannot be underestimated, according to co-founder Reis. Baidam focuses not just on business and technical outcomes but social ones too.

“First Nation Australian cultures have a deep respect for the land and the environment which can translate to a heightened awareness of the need to protect and preserve resources. This same awareness can be applied to cybersecurity, with an emphasis on the need to protect digital resources and data,” Reis said.

Marny Foad is Group General Manager, Procurement at ANZ.

On June 28th ANZ and Baidam celebrated the signing of 3 years of partnership with a moving ceremony.

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The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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