Article by David Prestipino for the National Indigenous Times
The spotlight was on growth prospects and economic opportunities for the First Nations business industry at the Goldfields Aboriginal Business Chamber’s second annual forum and trade show on Thursday.
Collaboration and equity with Indigenous businesses and key stakeholders were two of the main focuses of the Kalgoorlie forum, with its economic equity theme focusing on reaching cultural and supplier diversity in the business and procurement areas, with discussions, presentations and networking events throughout the day.
Major sponsor BHP outlined its economic commitments from its just-released sixth Reconciliation Action Plan in a discussion panel with the mining giant’s Indigenous engagement head Allan James and Global Indigenous Procurement lead Chris Cowan.
Developed after eight months and nine forums involving consultation with roughly 1000 internal and external partners in regions BHP operates, the miner highlighted the seven-day payment terms it introduced for First Nations businesses last year and this year’s commitment to spend $1.5 billion with Indigenous businesses and Traditional Owners by 2027 as examples of increasing consultation with the sector.
Mr Cowan said he was driven to deliver on BHP’s recent action plan, which included a new Indigenous employment target of 9.7 per cent.
“The whole team is really aligned around how we create more opportunities, better opportunities… but it’s not about a number,” he said.
“It’s about how we engage around them and how we support the businesses to grow with them, and improve the experience working with BHP.
“How that plays out in the sixth RAP … is through increased transparency and talking about the different opportunities and the different ways of working with BHP, but also talking about the things that are and are not working and how we need to work differently together.”
Mr James said growing Chamber members and awareness through events like the annual Goldfields forum were critical for networking and connecting.
“Making connections and networking is critically important to events like these. But also on the flip side of that, there’s organisations such as ourselves, we get to actually perhaps have exposure to Indigenous businesses and contractors that we would not normally have,” he said.
BHP was the first corporate partner of Reconciliation Australia in 2002, and published its first RAP in 2007.
Last Friday it announced a record contract for a First Nations business, with Leonora-based Tulli Resources receiving a $16m contract for machinery and maintenance services over 14 months at its Camelot Pit project at Nickel West.
Thursday’s event at the Kalgoorlie Regional TAFE Conference Centre featured talks from Olympian Nova Perris, Kalgoorlie MLA Ali Kent, Main Roads WA’s Dennis Kickett and Kado Muir from the National Native Title Council.
The GABC aims to highlight strengths of Aboriginal entities and business owners and promote economic participation for existing and aspiring businesses across the Goldfields.
The chamber emerged from industry feedback on the lack of visibility of First Nations businesses, barriers experienced by them in engaging in commercial opportunities and the community desire to define its own narrative on Indigenous business matters.