Q&A with Supply Nation: Closing the economic gap for today’s emerging and evolving Indigenous Australians

By 7th December 2018Australia, Blog, Supply Nation

We sat down with Supply Nation president Laura Berry to discuss how the organisation has been working to close the economic gap for today’s emerging and evolving Indigenous Australians since its concpetion in 2009.

Q: What is Supply Nation?

Supply Nation is the Australian leader in supplier diversity. Since 2009, Supply Nation has worked
with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses along with procurement teams from
government and corporate Australia to help shape today’s emerging and rapidly evolving
Indigenous business sector.
Indigenous Australians face significant social, health, and demographic challenges that are totally
unacceptable in our society. Although Australia ranks 2nd in UNDP’s Human Development Index,
Indigenous Australians would rank 122nd. There are many organisations working to close that gap –
and Supply Nation does that using the lever of procurement.
The Indigenous peoples of Australia (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) make up around
3% of the population, but only own around 0.5% of the businesses in the country. In Australia,
supplier diversity is focused on achieving economic benefits for Indigenous people through business
Supply Nation’s vision is a vibrant, prosperous and sustainable Indigenous business sector and we
work towards that by supporting Indigenous businesses to get a seat at the table with the
procurement teams of our corporate, government and not-for-profit members.

Q: Who can join Supply Nation?
Supply Nation recognises two levels of Indigenous ownership of a business – Registered, which is
50% or more Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander ownership (caters for equal partnerships with
non-Indigenous owners) and Certified Suppliers that are at least 51% owned, managed and
controlled by the Indigenous party.
Suppliers who register their business with Supply Nation receive a host of benefits, including listing
on Indigenous Business Direct (the largest national database of Indigenous businesses in Australia)
access to networking events, trade-fairs and training. All this is provided completely free (apart
from tickets to Connect – Supply Nation’s annual Knowledge Forum, Tradeshow and Gala Awards
Supply Nation also supports a network of paid corporate, government and not-for-profit members
who receive training and consulting to develop a sustainable supplier diversity program within their
procurement departments.

Q: What is the scale and impact of supplier diversity in Australia?
Supply Nation now has over 1700 Indigenous businesses and over 400 members. Research
gathered from Supply Nation’s social investment of return report “The Sleeping Giant” shows that
for every dollar of revenue Indigenous businesses produce on average $4.41 of social return. In
addition, Indigenous businesses are up to 60 times more likely to employ Indigenous people and
Indigenous business leaders provide role models and leadership for other members of the
community. The number of Indigenous businesses growing at almost 23% per annum (more than
four times non-Indigenous businesses).
Since 2014, Business Council of Australia members have reported over $2 billion in spend with
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and since its introduction in July 2015, the
Indigenous Procurement policy has awarded 6,850 contracts worth approximately $1 billion to
more than 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.
Supply Nation has grown from 13 suppliers registered in 2009, with a founding membership of 32
corporate and government organisations – to today having over 1700 Indigenous businesses and a
membership of over 400 engaged organisations who support our vision for the sector.
Our members operate in diverse industries such as mining, construction, finance, IT and
telecommunications, pharmaceutical and retail. There are innovative and successful Indigenous
businesses in every sector and state – providing services from consultants to contractors; from
construction to cleaning and from cryogenics to climbing gear!

Q: How is Australia’s Indigenous business sector evolving and growing at the moment –
what changes are you seeing?
Supply Nation is about to enter our 10th year of operation – and in that time the Indigenous
business sector has grown and matured exponentially. Many organisations now include supplier
diversity in their Reconciliation Action Plan commitments, and the introduction of federal and state
government procurement policies with hard targets has really moved the dial in terms of
behavioural change.
Looking forward we expect the exponential growth to continue and accelerate as state and local
government implement mandatory procurement targets and as more corporate organisations
realise the benefits of supplier diversity – not only to their own business through increased
innovation and value; and decreased risk, but also to the Australian community and economy
through financial and economic empowerment of our First Peoples.

Join Laura and Supply Nation at Australia’s largest supplier diversity event in the Indigenous business sector in May 2019 for thier annual conference, Connect 2019.

For more information about Supply Nation and their impact, please read thir latest report Indigenous Business Growth