30 Oct 2020
IndigiCyber and STEM pathways launch with Indigenous IT businesses and Defence
By Huon Curtis
To coincide with cyber security and Indigenous business month, ASPI launched its IndigiCyber and STEM Pathways project with an event that brought Indigenous IT businesses together with the Department of Defence, the National Indigenous Australians Agency and the Digital Transformation Agency. The key messages of the day were that senior leadership and a long-term vision in the APS and Government can help build Indigenous business (IB) sector so they move up the value chain. However, there is a need to encourage feedback mechanisms between IBs and departments so that (1) IBs are continuously upskilled and (2) IBs are involved in the design of solutions that attempt to overcome siloed departmental and jurisdictional arrangements.
The event kicked off with a welcome-to-country by local Ngunnawal woman Selina Walker, followed by a video message from Adam Goodes in his capacity as CEO of the Indigenous Defence & Infrastructure Consortium. The connection between STEM and Indigenous businesses for Adam was clear: “Indigenous businesses are a major employer of Indigenous Australians [...] our cultural knowledge and practices have been practised for thousands of years, and the incorporation of this knowledge and culture into areas of STEM is long overdue and really add value to this important area”
In recognition of the important role that the Department of Defence is playing in contracting with the Indigenous business sector through the Indigenous Procurement Program (IPP), we welcomed representatives from Defence IPP as well as featured a keynote address from the Defence Indigenous Champion and Deputy Secretary Estate and Infrastructure Mr Stephen Grzeskowiak (Steve G.).
Steve spoke of his personal experience participating in the Jawun executive immersion in an Indigenous community in Northern Queensland about 6 years ago. The cut through moment was the realisation that some Indigenous communities are living in developing world conditions in one of the world’s most developed countries. More can be done by Defence and other government agencies to integrate Indigenous companies into supply chains. Defence exceeds its IPP targets by approximately 300% but now sees its role as moving Indigenous businesses higher up the value chain. What partly inspired this long-term vision was a conversation with Adam Goodes, who said that we need to set ambitious objectives so that in 40 years’ time Indigenous businesses are leaders in delivering the most complex technical and infrastructure needs to Defence such as the provision of a fleet of frigates.
Jennifer Jardine provided a systematic overview of the IPP from the perspective of the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), saying that government departments need to think of Indigenous businesses first. Julian Buckmaster and Peter Rymasz (Digital Transformation Agency (DTA)) highlighted the upcoming Digital Sourcing Network event and how they are planning on targeting Indigenous businesses. Siobhan Reid, from Defence, acknowledged that it is sometimes hard for IBs to know who to connect with because Defence is large and diverse. Part of their IPP team’s role is to ensure that IBs are connected with the right people, and to create an inclusive culture where Indigenous procurement goals are included in branch business plans, and that IBs are resourced with advice to address criteria, provided debriefs and feedback to continuously build the capacity of IBs in their purview.
A few strong themes emerged over the course of the afternoon:
- Forthright executive leadership
- Principle of Indigenous business first
- Move IBs up value chain
- Build relationships through business forums and trade shows
- Information on digital connections/marketplace
- Encourage learning from IBs
- Culture of upskilling IBs through debriefing and feedback and encouraging IBs to share ideas with departments.
- IPP representatives are key to connecting with the right person (but often won’t make procurement decisions)
- Share ideas and business plans with IPP representatives
- Partnerships with larger providers to help move up value chain
- Get advice on addressing criteria, ask for debrief and feedback
- Update statement on Supply Nation
- For start-ups with no previous government contracts, demonstrate expertise by drawing attention to team talent and capabilities.