Aust, Canada launch indigenous partnership

An Australian-Canadian partnership will focus on promoting and supporting indigenous businesses.
An Australian-Canadian partnership will focus on promoting and supporting indigenous businesses.

A partnership between Australia and Canada will identify, support and promote opportunities for indigenous businesses.

The Indigenous Economic Development Partnership was launched at the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum in Melbourne on Friday.

It will look at everything from indigenous people's relationship with banks and the financial sector to specific procurement opportunities for indigenous businesses.

Laura Berry, chief executive of Supply Nation, said the initiative had been in the works for more than a year

Her organisation fosters connections between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and procurement teams from government and corporates.

"We also break down the stereotypes that may exist about what an indigenous business may do," Ms Berry told AAP.

"They're doing all the things non-indigenous businesses are doing, they just happen to be owned by indigenous Australians."

Among the 2200 businesses on Supply Nation's national directory are construction companies, legal firms, communications agencies and even a drone surveying business.

Another business uses augmented and virtual reality to tell cultural stories.

"Through decades of practices in this country we've had indigenous businesses shut out of the mainstream economy in Australia," Ms Berry said.

"This is really giving indigenous Australians a seat at the table to start to build relationships and have those conversations that lead to work and contracts with large corporations and government departments."

She said Australia could learn plenty from Canada, in particular how they finance the growth and capability building of indigenous businesses.

The announcement comes on the same day the Consumer Action Law Centre and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service released a report into consumer issues in Victorian Aboriginal communities.

It found funeral insurance, irresponsible lending and harmful sales tactics were some of the main factors leaving families in considerable debt.

One case study in the report outlined how a 56-year-old Aboriginal woman signed up for expensive funeral insurance she could not afford.

A failure of energy retailers and credit providers to advise people of their rights was also common.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday released the latest Closing the Gap report, declaring things are "better than they were ... but we have not made as much progress as we should have by now".

Australian Associated Press