Indigenous Businesses: high growth, high impact

The Indigenous business sector in Australia is expanding at a rapid pace.

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There are as many as 14,000 Indigenous businesses across the country, employing more than 60,000 people and accounting for as much as $8.8 billion in annual revenue, according to Supply Nation.

"We support Indigenous businesses from 64 different industries, with 51 per cent being female led. From construction to arts, entertainment, and consulting, almost everything!” – Alex Martins, Kinaway

This has grown exponentially in the last decade, with a 74 per cent increase in the number of Indigenous businesses. But what sets Indigenous businesses apart from those in the broader non-Indigenous community and how do organisations like the Kinaway Chamber of Commerce help?

Motivation and community

Recent Supply Nation research shows one of the key distinctions lies in their motivations. While many businesses are usually driven by shareholders expecting dividends, Indigenous businesses are often view the community as one of their shareholders.

This emphasis on community support and accountability generates a ripple effect that fosters skill development, local employment and business opportunities. Moreover, it creates a reservoir of positive entrepreneurial role models for younger members of the community.

Beyond the cultural and social needs of communities, Indigenous businesses also yield significant financial benefits. By growing their revenues, local businesses enhance the broader economic landscape through providing jobs, products, revenue and services to communities.

According to Supply Nation, an Indigenous business is 100 times more likely to hire Indigenous workers compared with a non-Indigenous business.

This potential to develop strong business fundamentals in future generations, the ability to sustain professional networks and the means to build wealth carries an immeasurable impact. It can help dismantle long-standing barriers and set in motion a positive cycle of social and economic empowerment.


However, despite commendable advancements, motivations and community support, like any other business owner, the Indigenous business owner’s journey is not without challenges.

A common issue faced by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses in Australia can be building scale from the start-up phase. This challenge can be acutely felt within the Indigenous community.

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Indigenous Business Growth Report, Supply Nation

Some critical hurdles include not possessing holistic business skills and operational experience, access to support systems and networks at key stages of growth, a lack of start-up funding and cultivating sustained demand for services in the procurement process.

Many Indigenous businesses also operate differently to traditional establishments, including banks, which are not always accepted as culturally safe spaces. As such, efforts must be directed towards establishing trust and instilling confidence.

Given this dynamic, it’s often beneficial for these businesses to enlist trusted parties to act as a bridge between traditional institutions and the Indigenous business sector.

Kinaway Chamber of Commerce

Kinaway Chamber of Commerce is Victoria’s leading organisation to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owners. Kinaway means “exchange” from the Gunnai language.

As a membership organisation it advocates for the economic participation and empowerment of Victorian First Nations’ business owners. It provides corporate relationship managers to initiate and maintain networking and procurement opportunities, which helps build the capacity and capabilities of members.

Kinaway also helps work on writing grants and tenders through government funding processes and it is not short of ways to advocate and lobby for Indigenous businesses. 

Its importance grows as membership numbers continue to rise, says Alex Martins, Kinaway Corporate Relationship Manager.

“From just over 100 members four or five years ago to around 600 now. We’ve also seen a huge rise in corporate partnerships. We have grown from five partners to 140.”

The diversity and breadth of these businesses demonstrates the expansion of Indigenous business is Australia.

“We support Indigenous businesses from 64 different industries, with 51 per cent being female led. From construction to arts, entertainment and consulting, almost everything. It overcomes the stereotype of just cultural-based businesses and industries.”

To become members Victorian Indigenous businesses must undergo a strict certification process aimed at excluding organisations who practice so-called “black cladding”.

What is black cladding?

The practice of a non-Indigenous business entity or individual purporting to be majority Indigenous owned or controlled by utilising the names and faces of Indigenous people. Thus, allowing them to gain access to otherwise inaccessible procurement policies, contracts or opportunities designed for Indigenous businesses and workers.

In order to protect against this, Kinaway only supports majority owned, operated and controlled model.

“These businesses have to prove and continually demonstrate that Indigenous people are in managing control of the business, not just a 50/50 partnership or less. It’s a continual process for us as we conduct regular checks to ensure businesses haven’t changed their structures after the certification stage.”

This stringent process ensures genuine Indigenous businesses receive support from Kinaway. A large part of that support is introducing these businesses to corporate procurement and supply chains.

“Our partnership with companies like ANZ is very important to helping our members prosper. ANZ has procurement spending targets with Indigenous businesses and we share that reputational responsibility to ensure that we are partnering with and recommending genuine Indigenous businesses to make an impact to the community.”

Kinaway’s corporate partnerships also help bridge the gap between traditional establishments and Indigenous businesses.

“Trust is a really important part of any business arrangement and ANZ’s Indigenous Business Banking proposition has really helped our members connect and feel welcome by traditional establishments.

By partnering with companies like ANZ, it opens so many doors for our members. If they can secure opportunities with ANZ, other organisations also trust them to offer them more opportunities.”

ANZ is committed to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owners across Australia. ANZ provides financial solutions that help Indigenous businesses reach their goals, regardless of business stage – starting, running, or growth.

ANZ has unique skills and knowledge to share and can walk alongside Indigenous businesses to help them grow and thrive. ANZ’s First Nations Business bankers have a strong connection and commitment to supporting Indigenous communities.

  • We have access to educational programs that can build your industry knowledge
  • We understand Indigenous businesses are important to local communities and their employment prospects
  • We understand the growth potential and broader opportunities within the Indigenous business sector

ANZ is committed to supporting Reconciliation through our 2022-2024 Reconciliation Action Plan with a focus on Building the Capacity of Indigenous Business and organisations to enable economic participation.

Robert Lichtendonk is a Senior Manager at ANZ & Patrick Kelly is Head of Remote Customer Relationships at ANZ

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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