University of Melbourne partners to deliver Indigenous procurement program

The new program is designed to strengthen relationships between mature Indigenous businesses and corporate Australia.

Meereeng 50 is a collaborative initiative led by the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Business School, Kinaway Chamber of Commerce Victoria, and PwC’s Indigenous Consulting (PIC). The program brings together some of Australia’s largest companies to deliver a unique opportunity for Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owners to accelerate the growth of their businesses.

The Indigenous business sector is in a phase of significant growth, building on the momentum from the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Procurement Policy established in 2015 and the recent launch of the Business Council of Australia’s Raise the Bar Initiative. Market demand for goods and services supplied by Indigenous Australians continues to grow, but for many Indigenous business owners converting this into a commercial relationship is proving difficult.

Professor Paul Kofman, Co-Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics says the industry is facing a case of demand outpacing supply.

“The challenge for the Indigenous economy is ensuring that as demand for Indigenous goods and services continue to grow, businesses are equipped to scale and meet that demand,” Professor Kofman said.

The purpose-built program will combine formal learning and business coaching with ongoing support over a 15-month period.
Co-Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics Professor Ian Harper says Meereeng 50 will enable mature businesses the scale quickly, with the additional benefit of bringing both sides of the supply chain together to learn from each other and grow simultaneously.

Meereeng 50 is unique in that it brings buyers and suppliers together in one program - providing corporate partners with unique insight into how they can best collaborate with Indigenous business going forward. It’s this focus on expanding and nurturing the value in the buyer-supplier relationship that will ensure continued growth of the sector,” Professor Harper said.

According to Associate Professor Michelle Evans, Director of the MURRA Indigenous Business Masterclass program, many large and medium corporations have set ambitious Indigenous procurement targets.

Watch: Can we boost Indigenous business through education. Video by New Mac Video Agency.

“The suppliers will learn and be supported to effectively scale their business to meet demand and take on the $100,000 contracts,” Associate Professor Evans said.

“But, equally, the buyers will better understand the complexities of the procurement process and extend their capacity to ensure better diversity and efficiency in how they practice procurement.”

Partnering with Kinaway and PIC to deliver this initiative supports the University of Melbourne’s ongoing pledge to advancing capability in the Indigenous Business sector.

“This program goes hand in hand with the work we are already doing in this space. 156 Indigenous Australian entrepreneurs have graduated from the MURRA Indigenous Business Masterclass program. And, we recently launched a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Business Leadership, the first of its kind in Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business leaders,” Associate Professor Evans said.

“Indigenous leaders in all sectors, including business owners, must navigate a whole range of tensions. They must traverse the self-authorisation expected of our leaders alongside cultural and community authorisation. They must consider a range of stakeholders other leaders in corporate Australia are not thinking about. Programs like this are vital to the continued growth of Indigenous business.”

Meereeng 50 has the support of Indigenous Business Australia and the Victorian state government, both of whom will be involved in developing the content for the procurement accelerator.

CEO of PwC Australia, Mr Luke Sayers said: "although the demand for products and services supplied by First Australians has been steadily growing, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses still face significant barriers to growth, with particular challenges to navigate the complex procurement system.“

“We will be working alongside our corporate partners to identify and source contracts for the Meereeng 50 participants to make the supplier process less onerous,” Co-CEO of PIC Ms Jodie Sizer said.

The Meereeng 50 pilot program will be delivered in Victoria and is expected to commence in late February 2020. It will initially include up to 12 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander businesses, with the intention to roll out the developed program to other Australian states following this.

The University of Melbourne’s Wade Institute is a leading centre for entrepreneurial training. Experienced in delivering intensive programs to help students explore, create and scale their businesses, the Institute will play a significant role in the delivery of Meereeng 50.

“There is commitment University-wide to delivering a custom program that offers real value to buyers and suppliers and the Wade Institute at Ormond college is excited about the role we can play,” Director, Wade Institute Georgia McDonald said.

As Kinaway Chair, Karen Milward, explains “Meereeng 50 is a fantastic initiative and a significant step forward for Victorian Aboriginal businesses. We’re committed to increasing Aboriginal businesses involvement in the Victorian economy and, along with PIC and the University of Melbourne, we believe this program will help achieve that objective.”

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