Indigenous leaders have called for the federal government to direct funding towards peak Indigenous business bodies.
Addressing the Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference at the UWA Business School, Debbie Barwick, Chairperson of the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce (NSWICC), said the work of Indigenous business bodies was constrained by a lack of resources.
"There are currently 2,000 Indigenous businesses that are part of a national network of Indigenous chambers of commerce and business associations," Ms Barwick said.
"These entities are not funded by the commonwealth or states to deliver essential day-to-day business support to grass roots businesses and communities despite the 2008 Open for Business report recommendations, the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy 2011-2018 and public commitments made by previous federal ministers - all supporting the establishment of such entities.
"Some manage to provide limited services resourced through their own efforts such as one-off fee-for-service projects, in-kind support and small sponsorships.
"This situation is unsustainable and Indigenous business chambers must be resourced to build the capability and competitiveness of existing Indigenous companies, assist Indigenous people to start up their own businesses, support engagement by the private sector and government agencies, and feed into improved programs and policy.
"What we've seen at the IBEC Conference is an absolute groundswell of support from the corporate world, from academia, government representatives and Indigenous businesses themselves - they can all see the value of not only the NSWICC, but the network of Indigenous chambers of commerce right around Australia.
"This national network is recognised by Indigenous businesses nationally as the representative voice and is represented by every state and territory.
"The network is also in the early stages of developing a national portal which will list Indigenous companies across Australia and streamline the process of engagement when it comes to procurement.
"My hope is that the federal government recognises the value of this network and directs funding accordingly."
Members of the national network include: New South Wales Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, South East Queensland Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, Pilbara Aboriginal Contractors Association (PACA), Northern Territory Indigenous Business Network, and Kinaway, based in Victoria.
The NSWICC is also supporting Indigenous business leaders in Western Australia to establish the Western Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, which will provide regional representative bodies such as PACA and hundreds of Indigenous businesses with a State voice and business support. Other areas that have established or are in the process of registering as a Chamber include South Australia, Cairns, and several other regions in Queensland and New South Wales.
The Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference was held at the UWA Business School on 1-2 December.