Showcase for Aboriginal Owned Businesses

Kate Kelleher, a senior consultant with Symmetra attended Supply Nation’s Connect 2013 awards conference in Melbourne on May 14 and 15 this year.

Supply Nation provides a direct business to business purchasing link between corporate Australia, government agencies and Indigenous-owned businesses. They are otherwise known as a dating agency for business.

Kelleher, who is Supply Nation Certified herself, delivers Symmetra’s ‘Embedding Inclusion – First Australians’ cultural safety workshops.

Below is a blog from Kate about this exciting and inspirational event.

‘Australia’s biggest indigenous networking event’

Supply Nation, formerly known as AIMSC (the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council), sponsored the conference. They are a business to business membership body and government approved certifier for Indigenous owned and managed companies.  This event was a Conference and Tradeshow for corporate and Government members to meet with certified Aboriginal owned businesses. The conference included local and international speakers, case studies on successful alliances; break out sessions on different aspects of achieving the Conference theme “turning contacts into contracts” and then a very well attended tradeshow that showcased the businesses.

David A. Hinson, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) in the US, as our keynote speaker for Connect 2013. Mr Hinson captured the attention of the audience with his insights into business development and supplier diversity. He reflected upon the importance of flexibility in an ever-changing environment, and the need for exceptional marketing practices, fresh ideas and an open-minded approach to business. He also highlighted that in a diverse workplace, the desire to work together – irrespective of individual backgrounds – is of paramount importance and the key to making any organisation or project a success.

David A. Hinson, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) in the US, as our keynote speaker for Connect 2013. Mr Hinson captured the attention of the audience with his insights into business development and supplier diversity. He reflected upon the importance of flexibility in an ever-changing environment, and the need for exceptional marketing practices, fresh ideas and an open-minded approach to business. He also highlighted that in a diverse workplace, the desire to work together – irrespective of individual backgrounds – is of paramount importance and the key to making any organisation or project a success.

The standout moment for me

Overall – the talent, maturity and experience of the suppliers; the willingness of the members to engage and, as a ‘first-timer’, the friendliness of the people. The Coles-Yaru Water case study was a particularly successful story that had a big impact. It explains how Symmetra worked on a cultural safety roll-out with Coles in the ACT and NSW.  Coles attributed part of their success to having 600+ of their employees (at operational management level and above) participate in cultural awareness workshops.  Symmetra provided the training for about 50% of those workshops.

Kate Kelleher (second from right at front) with the Coles workshop participants.

Kate Kelleher (second from right at front) with the Coles workshop participants.

 

Understanding the benefits of creating alliances with indigenous owned businesses

Empowerment

For the indigenous community there is  clear recognition that self-empowerment has numerous positive benefits, from the initial step of workforce participation, to the development of multi-million dollar businesses. This was described at the Conference as a ‘hand up’ rather than the stereotypical ‘handout’.  From the member’s perspective; exercising their social responsibility, engaging with a growing workforce demographic and diversifying their supply chain all come about through participation with Supply Nation and the businesses they certify.

Real Change

There was one personal story stood out to me. A female was left to bring up her two children after a violent relationship. She established her own business and with the assistance of the local Indigenous Chamber of Commerce and Supply Nation, she was able to expand her capacity and won a half million dollar contract (along with a regular monthly cash flow) from a major Corporate client.  When sitting with the Corporate Executive at the Awards dinner table on Wednesday night she was able to say to them face to face “You have no idea how this will transform the lives of me and my family”. She said they had tears in their eyes to know first hand that they were making a difference.

Accountability and transparency

Many Corporate and Government groups expressed determination to undertake a set amount of business with Aboriginal owned businesses, as either a commitment with their Indigenous Opportunities Program (IOP) or as a practical goal within their Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).  Supply Nation certification takes the guess work out of the equation, providing more accountability and transparency for business looking to partner with indigenous suppliers.

The role that Symmetra plays

Symmetra provides a myth busting, cultural safety workshop “Embedding Inclusion – First Australians” which addresses the significant unconscious bias still prevalent in today’s workplace.  

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