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Inclusive Trade: Unlocking the Export Potential of Australia’s Indigenous SMEs

Summary of publication

Australia’s Indigenous Peoples have been trading with international partners for many thousands of years. It appears that these traditional practices of commerce are being revived and already Australia’s economy includes a growing number of Indigenous companies. Between 2006 and 2016 the number of Indigenous companies incorporated in Australia increased by 72%.

In the 2020/2021 financial year, $1.09 billion worth of goods and services were provided by Indigenous companies to Commonwealth departments and agencies.

Research into the Indigenous business sector is a field deserving of more focus. There is merit in commissioning research to build evidence and data. This ‘first pass’ of Indigenous export interests can be seen as a baseline against which to assess subsequent activity. With a longitudinal approach there is scope to lift the data and to refine methodologies that better capture the breadth of Indigenous investment and trade.

In an Australian first this research was commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to inform Government trade and investment policy and programs that ensure the opportunities for accessing international trade and investment opportunities are

equitable and inclusive. Its findings will help inform work being undertaken under the Services Export Action Plan (2020).

It’s against this background that in May 2021 the Department launched its Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda. The emphasis within this policy-setting document on matters of Indigenous trade, investment and export moves DFAT’s focus into meeting new opportunities.

The Department expressed a view in its Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda of “a vision for a world where the rights and traditions of indigenous people are respected; where open markets facilitate the free flow of trade, capital and ideas for indigenous businesses; and where indigenous peoples are participants and beneficiaries of the international system.”

All involved with this project wish that the report contributes to the body of information, aids the efforts of researchers, and tells a story of Indigenous businesses in realising Indigenous opportunities. It is hoped that this study will provoke more research that, in turn, gives more granularity and add further encouragement for more Indigenous companies to become stories of Australian exporting success.

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