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My 5 takeaways from Connect 2016: Indigenous Business and Procurement

Supply Nation’s Connect 2016 is the biggest conference and business trade show event on the Indigenous supplier diversity calendar. There were 5 takeaways I got from Connect 2016, from a lawyer’s perspective:

  1. Strong relationships are best when the terms are understood and in writing;

  2. Manage risk with contracts, and monitor compliance;

  3. Be on the same page with your Employees: agreements, systems and


  1. Protect your brand as a registered trade mark; and

  2. Assert your intellectual property (IP).

And this is my overview …

Connect 2016 started with a conference held on the first day focussing on Innovation for Impact. Laura Berry, CEO of Supply Nation opened the conference by sharing her own personal story of growing up with an Indigenous dad with a landscape business. She pointed out the importance of passing on inter-generational business knowledge and opportunity. Supply Nation was fostering a strong future of Indigenous business, and the theme of the conference, ‘Innovation for impact’ aimed to cause participants to rethink business and procurement models, so that using Indigenous businesses in an organisation’s supply chain is normal and unquestioned.

Laura Berry, CEO, Supply Nation

The CEO of Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, presented the Keynote Address. Her focus was technology disruption into the future and what this means for business. Ms Westacott encouraged us to be innovative. She noted that innovation was not just for start-ups, but for all business. Innovation is a constant process of adaptation and incremental change. Relationships are the foundation of innovation and these must be based on trust and respect.

Innovation plays a role in reconciliation and is about working together. Westacott’s words were clear - ‘‘You cannot have innovation designed within a rigid approach designed by one group of people for another group.” The value of the Indigenous contribution is key. The future is in partnerships and collaborations, the challenge is to always integrate and assess what can be done to improve the delivery of services and products, in order to give solutions to consumers. To make stronger supply chains, Westacott said that we need to build Indigenous capacity, be more flexible with systems the red tape and disrupt our business models to seek a competitive edge. Her paper set a strong tone for the two days to come.

Jennifer Westacott, CEO, Business Council of Australia & Terri Janke, Solicitor Director, Terri Janke and Company

I then attended the morning workshop session on the Indigenous Procurement Policy one year on. Nadine Williams from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet highlighted the success of the Commonwealth Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy. In the 6 months since its inception, the IPP has seen the awarding of over $90 million of contracts to 250 Indigenous businesses. This is perhaps the most successful Indigenous economic policy. It has created a framework for government departments for their Indigenous engagement. The experience of the Department of Defence illustrated this well. Michael Howe, Head of Procurement with the Department of Defence, said that in 2013/14, Defence spent $1,820 in contracts with Indigenous business, and now the share is over $38 million. The spend is both with Indigenous suppliers as primary contractors and sub-contractors.

Dale Conner from Lend Lease said that it was not just about targets but relationships. Lend Lease strategies include cultural awareness training; employing Indigenous people and developing their skills and engaging with Indigenous business within their supply chain. He stated it takes commitment, clear communication and a clear picture of the value of what Indigenous businesses bring to the table.

Ros Moriarty, Director of Balarinji, gave a good overview of how it is for an Indigenous business to play in the government procurement space. With a track record of over 30 years there was much to highlight. She noted the high costs of Indigenous business in tendering and developing capacity. Government needs to be aware of what it means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses to grow operations, they need access to finance and flexibility.

The afternoon workshop session that I attended was on Benchmarking for Supplier Diversity Success. Natalie Walker and Koorinya Moreton of Inside Policy presented the findings of their research with Indigenous suppliers on the question - What can corporate and government buyers do to make it easier for Indigenous Business to do business with them? The purpose of the research was to help buyers understand the needs of Indigenous suppliers. Amongst the detailed findings, was the need to implement a coherent system which supports procurement from Indigenous suppliers. The importance of valuing Indigenous advice, expertise and Indigenous intellectual property was highlighted. Contract management could also be done better, for instance, more flexibility with the terms of agreements which can be template excessive terms set for larger companies and are out of proportion to the benefit of the contract.

Stephanie Knox, Head of Indigenous Finance and Development, NAB

Stephanie Knox, Head of Indigenous Finance and Development at NAB talked about the shared value approach which aims at economic returns whilst creating social outcomes. NAB works to increase Indigenous business as direct suppliers but also aims to put Indigenous businesses in contact with Tier 1 suppliers through strategic introductions to assist business partnership. NAB is the principal partner with Supply Nation of the Australian Supplier Diversity Index (ASDI). Robin Burton, Program Innovation Manager at Supply Nation presented on the ASDI, the new tool which will enable members to gain feedback and a big picture view so they can diagnose gaps and identify areas that need more work. The ASDI will benchmark against 12 necessary elements for effective supplier diversity including vision, policy, strategy, programs and communications. It will also track spending and manage reporting which can then provide members with snapshot reports, action plans and industry insight reports. 40 members are about to start the pilot and then by 2016/2017 ASDI will be available to all members.

By the closing session around 3pm I was starting to fade, but was quickly reinvigorated by the presentation on building a mutually beneficial business relationship by Paul Kruspe, Assistant Commissioner, ATO and Noel Niddrie, Winangali. Paul Kruspe said that building a strong relationship was the key to succeeding with the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Procurement Policy, and from this establishing opportunities through going back and forth with open communications to identify where the synergy is. Noel Niddrie shared his experience as a seasoned business supplier to government. He said that building relationship minimises the perceived risks. Winangali started out with a small contract on mentoring but after successfully delivery exceeded ATO expectations, this opened the door to bigger opportunities in a range of services.

Scott Young, Managing Director & Trent Young, Executive Director, Young Guns

Scott and Trent Young from Young Guns Container Crew and the 2015 Supplier of Year Award Winner finished the session. Country brothers with a healthy natural competitiveness about them, these brothers are motivated by a challenge. Both played footy which contributed to their pursuit for excellence. Trent even played professionally for Rabbitohs. Whilst they were at university doing civil engineering, they took on casual jobs unpacking shipping containers. This opened their eyes to the opportunity to bring their connections, enthusiasm and skills together to set up a specialised container crew workforce in 2004. It has paid off and Young Guns has over 400 members of staff and is located in four states. It was an inspiring story which we can all draw from. As the brothers said, the biggest challenge is your own mindset, and stories like this are fuel for us to realise our own business dreams.

Taryn Saunders, Office Manager, Terri Janke and Company

The Indigenous Business Trade Show was held on the second day. It was an extravaganza of the Indigenous business offering. As one of the original businesses to support Supply Nation when it was established in 2009, we were thrilled to see the growth in the numbers and the high calibre of the displays. Over 110 Indigenous businesses exhibited at the trade show. Labour hire, office supplies, graphic design, work wear, chocolates, art on scarves and geospatial services were just some of the range of services that were showcased. Terri Janke and Company’s booth celebrated our 16th year of operation. Thank you for everyone who came and visited us. We had some great conversations and listened to your legal needs and look forward to working with you in the future.

Terri Janke, Solicitor Director, Terri Janke and Company, David Williams, CEO & Amanda Lear, Managing Director, Gilimbaa.

The Awards and Gala Dinner was a spectacular occasion. Decked out in frocks and tuxes, the audience honoured the award winners in the Supply Diversity Awards. Compass Group won the Corporate Member of the Year and the Certified Supplier of the Year was Pacific Services Group. Wendy Dawson of Sodexo Group won the Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year and Coles Workwear and Pacific Services Group won the Supplier to Supplier Partnership of the Year. Congratulations to all the finalists and the winners.

Our album on Facebook...

Anika Valenti, Solicitor, Sarah Grant, Professional Assistant, Maiko Sentina, Solicitor, Terri Janke and Company

Nancia Guivarra, Communications Consultant, Terri Janke, Solicitor Director, Tamina Pitt, Online Marketing Manager, Sarah Grant, Professional Assistant, Taryn Saunders, Office Manager, Andrew Pitt, Business Consultant, Terri Janke and Company, Jaiki Pitt.

See below our album on Facebook.

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