Indigenous businesses generate more revenue than local beer industry

Australia’s first nations entrepreneurs collectively generate $4.9 billion for the local economy, first-of-its-kind research has found.

Australia’s first nations entrepreneurs collectively generate $4.9 billion for the local economy, first-of-its-kind research has found.

A new report by Pro Bono Australia revealed the number of indigenous businesses in Australia grew 74% in the 12 years to financial year 2018 with the sectors’ gross income more than doubling during that period.

This immense growth has also created 22,000 jobs, with Pro Bono Australia describing the previously unresearched sector as “an unrecognised, but major, economic driver and employer” within Australia.

The report found indigenous businesses were also larger on average than non-indigenous businesses, bringing in annual income of $1.6 million compared to $400,000 in 2018.

These businesses also hire more staff on average by a factor of seven – indigenous businesses typically have 14 staff, the report found, while non-indigenous businesses averaged two.

“The picture that emerges is a thriving sector, which in some cases surpasses non-Indigenous businesses in size and employment outcomes on average,” Pro Bono Australia noted.

The report highlighted that although 26% of indigenous businesses are based in remote Australia, these businesses collectively account for 34% of total gross income income and 37% of the sector’s employment – making indigenous businesses vital components of remote Australia’s economy.

Poor data a weakness

Pro Bono Australia’s research was undertaken after the organisation noticed business data did not include indigenous identifiers, making it difficult for policy makers to accurately understand or assist the sector.

“This data blind spot has meant rigorous, evidence-based measurement of Indigenous businesses’ contribution in Australia has almost been impossible,” the report noted.

Pro Bono Australia is now advocating for improvements to indigenous business registries and the quality of data within I-BLADE – a data set created by Pro Bono Australia by integrating statistics from four Indigenous business registries with data from the ABS Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE).

“Perhaps the biggest and most pressing issue is improving coverage of the sector,” Pro Bono Australia added.

“The fact that Indigenous businesses in these registries are much larger than non-Indigenous businesses suggests that smaller Indigenous businesses may be under-represented.

“This may be because of perceived barriers to registering their business or indeed the value proposition of registering their business. But it is often the invisible pockets of the community that need special attention from policy – that is, small businesses and start-ups.”


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