The Australian, Tuesday 14 May 2013

The Australian: Push for Preferential Treatment at G20 Summit

By Patricia Karvelas

INDIGENOUS businesses should be given preferential treatment to provide services to the G20 meeting in Queensland next year, according to the new leader of the national peak Indigenous business body.

Charles Prouse, chief executive of Supply Nation -- a not-for-profit body that certifies indigenous suppliers for companies and government agencies -- said Indigenous business was on its way to becoming a key economic driver for individuals and communities.

Mr Prouse said giving indigenous businesses priority could show the world it was serious business. He called on the federal government to honour its commitments to showcase indigenous goods and services at the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November next year.

"The G20 forums will host 6500 delegates from all over the world. Indigenous businesses are ready to provide a huge range of services from transport and logistics, printing, catering and communications," he said. "It's time Australia and the world saw Indigenous enterprise as a strong contributor to the economy, not just there to provide entertainment and welcome-to-country rituals."

Mr Prouse said that three years ago, when Supply Nation was just a start-up, many people doubted the possibility of a successful enterprise sector that would become a key part of closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

He said Supply Nation had seen the playing field level, and the numbers of both certified Indigenous businesses and corporate and government partners grow beyond expectation. "Supply Nation figures alone show Indigenous businesses achieved over $36 million of contracts over the last few years," Mr Prouse said. He said so far this year 194 companies and government departments and 176 certified Indigenous suppliers were ready to do business. Most would be working the floor at Supply Nation's Connect 2013 conference, trade show and gala awards dinner today and tomorrow in Melbourne. Mr Prouse said that like every successful business, Indigenous enterprises worked continually to improve capacity and increasing numbers were taking their place in the corporate world and enjoying the prosperity and inclusion that brought. "Benefits are flowing to families and communities who may profit directly, by employment or by shared corporate knowledge and inspiration," he said.

The head of a similar organisation in the US, David A. Hinson, will address tomorrow's conference. Mr Hinson, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency, said Aboriginal businesses were generally small and needed to get bigger so they could compete.

"This means that they need greater access to capital and contract opportunities so that they may grow," he said.
"There needs to be a mindset established to help these businesses grow larger so that they may act as the supply chain for smaller Aboriginal businesses, thereby creating more jobs, becoming greater contributors to the overall economy of Australia and achieving self-autonomy.

"Aboriginal businesses need a hand up, not a hand out. That is what Supply Nation and others are attempting to provide, a hand up."