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Melbourne Business School News New report shows Indigenous business sector is bigger than beer industry

New report shows Indigenous business sector is bigger than beer industry

A first-of-its-kind research project has revealed that Indigenous businesses contribute at least $4.88 billion to the Australian economy – more than the beer industry.

The Indigenous Business Sector Snapshot 1.0 provides an overview of the economic power of Indigenous businesses, using data drawn from the new Indigenous Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment, or I-BLADE.

I-BLADE was created using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and numerous Indigenous custodians to form a unique source of information never before available in Australia.

Associate Professor Michelle Evans, Academic Director of the MURRA Indigenous Business Program and head of the University of Melbourne's Indigenous Business Research Group, said the project had quantified the impact of the Indigenous business sector for the first time and closed a blind spot that has hindered the potential growth of Indigenous businesses.

"This research is truly unprecedented. It shows us that Indigenous businesses bring not just significant economic impact, but far more," she said.

"In addition to contributions in employment opportunities for the community, these businesses deliver services to Indigenous communities including health services in a culturally-sensitive manner that is essential for ensuring trust.

"The success of Indigenous health providers in keeping COVID-19 out of these communities is evidence of the importance of the sector that goes beyond economic measures.

"They also often punch above their weight when compared to non-Indigenous businesses in terms of size, employee numbers and higher wages. On top of that, the sector is growing more quickly."

The study examined data from financial year 2006 to financial year 2018. Over that time, it found there was a 74-per-cent increase in the number of Indigenous businesses, that those businesses recorded 115-per-cent growth in gross income and that the sector created more than 22,000 new jobs.

In 2018, gross income for the sector was $4.88 billion, higher than Australia's beer industry ($4.3 billion).

Associate Professor Evans said while the figures proved the significance of Indigenous business to Australia, over coming years it would paint an annual picture of the sector’s scope and strength, with contributions from those in the community itself playing a key role in its future success.

"This snapshot will capture an image of the Indigenous business sector each year – from construction through to professional services and tourism – informing the sector ecosystem," she said.

"Critically, it will show the impact of focused sector support, such as the introduction of Indigenous preferential procurement programs.

"Business is a vehicle for self-determination. In order to grow Indigenous businesses, we need to have access to better data.

"With this project and with the input of the Indigenous business sector, we will have a deeper understanding of the scope of Indigenous entrepreneurialism. The future is unlimited."

As well as quantifying the Indigenous business sector's economic, social and cultural impact, the new I-BLADE dataset will offer policymakers comprehensive information to identify and focus upon areas that need the most assistance in the future.

For more information on I-BLADE and to download a copy of the report, visit the Indigenous Business Sector Snapshot 1.0 page at the University of Melbourne.

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