Celebrating Indigenous economic success event

I would like to start by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people and pay respect to their elders and ancestors.

Thank you Richie for your welcome. Your people have lived on and shaped this place for tens of thousands of years and remain custodians of this important part of our country.

Thank you to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs for hosting this event, the Business Council is proud to support it.

I’m delighted to see so many representatives from our member companies here.

Tomorrow marks 10 years since the Apology to the Stolen Generations, a watershed moment where Australians came together to acknowledge the gross wrongdoings of the past.

A defining turning point in our history, the Apology has enabled us to move forward, backed by programs such as Closing the Gap and the national Reconciliation Action Plan.

Today, ten years on, we stand here celebrating Indigenous economic success.

While we continue to narrow the divide, we must also work to unleash the potential of all Australians.

The Business Council strongly believes every single Australian – no matter where they live or their background – should have the opportunity to be their best and realise their full potential.

Economic advancement at an individual, family and community level is one of the best ways to create the type of opportunities that can deliver real, genuine and lasting change.

It’s a game changer - recognising reward for effort and encouraging investment in ingenuity, creativity and ability.

After the Apology, the Business Council ran its first Indigenous Engagement Survey. We also established our Indigenous Engagement Task Force.

In that first survey of 94 businesses, 21 said they had an Indigenous employment strategy. It’s now tripled to 62 businesses.

Nine companies had a Reconciliation Action Plan a decade ago. It’s now more than 50.

Indeed, 90 per cent our members are today focused on Indigenous engagement.

Most importantly, our commitment has translated into jobs.

Our companies now employ more than 20,000 Indigenous Australians.

They work across industries, not just the traditional sector of mining.

Our big retailers are the largest employers of indigenous Australians. Woolworths and Wesfarmers together have more than 7,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, including an increasing number in management roles. 

Real jobs, real opportunities.

Like the Prime Minister and the Minister, we are also encouraged by the progress and momentum in the Indigenous business sector.

The success and impact of the Indigenous Procurement Policy, a policy the Business Council advocated for, is beyond what we could have imagined.

Since 2014 our companies have spent or contracted over $2 billion dollars with Indigenous owned businesses and joint ventures.

Our companies are in the process of examining their supply chains and exploring ways to enhance their work with Indigenous businesses.

We’ve teamed up with Supply Nation on the Raising the Bar initiative. Many of the 21 Business Council companies driving this project are here today.

This project will see companies set more ambitious targets on employment and supply chains.

But there is more to be done.

We want to build diversified businesses. We want to create genuine and sustainable economic capability.

Large businesses can help promote new, small businesses through supply chains.

We can help mobilise the creativity of our people.

We can encourage more entrepreneurs who, with access to the digital economy, can nurture new business models, especially for remote enterprises.

To make the most of these enormous opportunities we need the support of business as well as ensuring our education and training system is equipped to give Australians the skills they need to master the challenges posed by digital disruption.

It’s why the Business Council is committed to pursuing reforms to our tertiary sectors to open the door to lifelong learning for all.

The greatest gift any society can give to its citizens – but particularly its first citizens – is the opportunity to realise their potential.

Perhaps it is best summed up in the words of an Aboriginal man called Ian Trust who runs a community development organisation in the East Kimberley.

The way Ian puts it, his people are wanting four things: good health; good jobs; a good house to live in; and reward for effort.

Isn’t that what we all hope for? For our citizens to be able to feel they are getting ahead.

The key to this is by promoting genuine economic advancement.

Business stands ready to work with government to unlock opportunities for every single Australian.

And together – as a nation – we can all realise our potential.