Australian Government response to theHouse of Representatives Standing Committee onIndigenous Affairs report:Indigenous Participation in Employment and BusinessMARCH 2022

The Australian Government welcomes the recommendations outlined in The IndigenousParticipation in Employment and Business report and thanks the Committee for its work.The Government is delivering substantial reforms to secure Australia’s recovery, by helpingIndigenous Australians into quality and long-lasting jobs, strengthening Indigenousbusinesses and community organisations, and backing its commitment to transform the waygovernments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These reforms, framedby the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and the National Roadmap for IndigenousSkills, Jobs and Wealth Creation, will help meet our collective commitment to strongeconomic participation and development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people andtheir communities.Recommendation 1The committee recommends that the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), inconsultation with other agencies, considers developing a richer measurement of performance andoutcomes for the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) than just contract numbers and value.Consideration by the NIAA should include how IPP contracts can help maximise Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander employment and skills transfer.The Australian Government supports this recommendation.The NIAA is currently working across Government to develop a monitoring and evaluationframework for the IPP. The framework seeks to establish a robust program logic and theoryof change for the IPP, and in doing so, develop a deeper understanding of the impact of theIPP on the Indigenous business sector and Indigenous economic participation. Theframework will be applied in the next evaluation of the IPP, due in 2022-23.Recommendation 2The committee recommends a series of independent random audits of entities that have beenawarded IPP contracts to ensure that black cladding is not happening and to assess if employment,skills transfer or other benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is occurring as aresult of the contract. Following these audits, Supply Nation should review its policies andprocedures to ensure they are fit for purpose.The Australian Government notes this recommendation.The next full evaluation of the IPP is due to be conducted in 2022-23. This will examineIPP’s design (including Indigenous business verification) and economic impact (includingIndigenous employment and Indigenous business development).Supply Nation’s existing verification process includes checking ownership documentationand confirming the Aboriginality of at least 50 per cent of the owners. For joint ventures1

between an Indigenous and a non-Indigenous business, interviews are also conducted toverify Indigenous involvement in the management and decision-making of the joint venture.Desktop audits are undertaken annually to ensure registered businesses continue to meet thecriteria. Supply Nation receives daily updates from the Australian Securities and InvestmentCommission (ASIC) regarding any changes to business ownership which allows them toconduct real-time audits, reinforcing the integrity and accuracy of the Indigenous businessdirectory.Supply Nation also reviews and assesses formal complaints of black cladding. If a business isfound to not have at least 50 per cent Indigenous ownership, Supply Nation will take actionagainst the business, including deregistration. Supply Nation also have the capacity in thecase of serious fraud or criminality as part of the registrations process to consider legalproceedings and referrals to police and/or other relevant statutory authorities.Recommendation 3The committee recommends that Supply Nation review its current definition of an Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander business to better ensure that awarding IPP contracts benefits Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander communities. Rather than just a percentage ownership definition,consideration should be given to including, among other things, the proportion of Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander employees, skills transfer, the use of company profits and whether the businesshas been able to attract work from the broader commercial marketplace.The Australian Government notes this recommendation.The Government is continually looking to improve the IPP, to ensure it delivers economicoutcomes for Indigenous Australians. In 2019, the Government introduced changes to the IPPto strengthen eligibility requirements of joint venture arrangements formed through theincorporation of an Indigenous business and a non-Indigenous business. Since1 January 2019, to be eligible under the IPP, incorporated Indigenous joint ventures musthave in place a strategy to build the capability and skills of the Indigenous business partnerand an Indigenous workforce strategy, with performance reviewed annually.The next full evaluation of the IPP is due to be conducted in 2022-23. This will examineIPP’s design and economic impact, including on Indigenous employment and Indigenousbusiness development.2

Recommendation 4The committee recommends that Supply Nation works with State and Territory based bodies, suchas the Northern Territory Indigenous Business Network, to streamline registration processes tocreate a single national registration and certification system, and thereby reduce the administrativeburden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.The Australian Government notes this recommendation. Most states and territories allowprocuring officials to use either Supply Nation’s Indigenous Business Direct or a localregistry. Listing on more than one registry is not a prerequisite to accessing Indigenousprocurement opportunities across Australia. Supply Nation operates a single nationalregistration and certification system compliant with IPP requirements. Nevertheless, greatercooperation between state and territory-based registries and Supply Nation has the potentialto streamline the process of listing on multiple registries for Indigenous businesses whochoose to do so.Recommendation 5The committee recommends that Supply Nation establishes a presence in Northern AustraliaThe Australian Government notes this recommendation.Indigenous businesses can apply to register with and be verified by Supply Nation onlinefrom anywhere in Australia. Supply Nation is a not-for-profit organisation. Strategic andoperational decisions, including Supply Nation’s regional physical presence, are a matter forits board and executive. The NIAA contracts Supply Nation to deliver the IndigenousBusiness Direct database but does not currently fund or direct its other activities.Recommendation 6The committee recommends that the Australian Government support more business hubs andemployment incubators where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses can receiveassistance with tender processes and with accessing government procurement opportunities.The Australian Government supports this recommendation.Through the 10-year Indigenous Business Sector Strategy, the Government has committed todeveloping business and employment hubs, anchored to major cities, to support thedevelopment of Indigenous businesses. As a first step, the Government has provided 22million in funding to establish two Indigenous business and employment hubs in Perth andSydney. The Government has also provided 3 million to support ‘The Circle – First NationsEntrepreneur Hub’ in Adelaide, delivered in partnership with the South AustralianGovernment. A further 10 million has been committed to deliver a new hub in Darwin in2022, as well as satellite services in other key locations across the Northern Territory.3

Hubs provide tendering, prequalification and contract execution support to Indigenousbusinesses as part of a suite of business support services. The hubs also play an importantnetworking function, helping to connect Indigenous businesses to opportunities to supplygoods and services to other businesses that have secured government contracts. Whilst thehub offering is primarily focused on business development support, the hubs also providesome employment services. Hubs connect Indigenous job seekers to local employmentservice providers, market employment opportunities, and provide facilities for job seekers tocomplete job applications and attend job interviews.The Government is also supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses throughmainstream services. For example, the Department of Defence is committed to thedevelopment of Australian industry, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanderbusinesses, in support of Defence capability outcomes. Defence recently launched the Officeof Defence Industry Support (ODIS) to replace the Centre Defence Industry Capability(CDIC) as the one-stop-shop for defence industry for support and guidance. The ODIS willbe the trusted link for Australian small and medium businesses, including Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander businesses, looking to enter—or expand their footprint—in the defenceindustry. It will work with state and territory industry associations and officials, small tomedium sized businesses, and defence primes, to deliver capability the Australian DefenceForce needs to keep Australians safe and secure.The new ODIS Headquarters has been established in Canberra and state-based IndustryEngagement Teams have been set up with resources in each state and territory to proactivelyengage with defence industry and deliver rolling programs through Mobile Defence IndustryHubs.Recommendation 7The committee recommends that the Australian Government remove legislative and other barriersthat could impede Indigenous Business Australia from expanding its operations.The Australian Governments supports in principle the recommendation to removelegislative and other barriers, which may impede Indigenous Business Australia fromexpanding their operations. The Australian Government will continue to work withIndigenous Business Australia to ensure their operations remain sustainable now and into thefuture.4

Recommendation 8The committee recommends that all future free trade agreements contain Aboriginal and TorresStrait Islander inclusions, including geographical inclusions, and that the government shouldsupport Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander access to foreign direct investment.The Australian Government notes this recommendation.The Australian Government is committed to supporting Australian businesses, includingIndigenous-led businesses, to export, import, attract investment and invest overseas throughsecuring comprehensive and ambitious free trade agreements (FTAs). The Department ofForeign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) engages regularly with Indigenous stakeholders on activeFTA negotiations, including those with the European Union and the United Kingdom.The Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement, signed on 17 December 2021,demonstrates the benefits that FTAs can provide to advance Indigenous interests and delivernew opportunities and revenue streams for Indigenous exporters. It includes commitments to: make all reasonable efforts to join the multilateral Hague Agreement on Designs,which will provide greater facilitated access to design protection for Indigenousfashion, decorative and industrial designers in international markets; implement reciprocal arrangements to provide for royalties to be paid to Australianartists where their artworks are resold in the United Kingdom. Resales of Indigenousartworks constitute the largest group of eligible resales in Australia, providing newfuture remuneration for artists after the initial sale, and particularly where works growsignificantly in value; and recognise the importance of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditionalcultural expression.On geographical indications protection (GIs), the Australian Government has conductedextensive public consultations, including targeted outreach to Indigenous stakeholders. TheGovernment is considering options to seek protection for Australian GI terms in ournegotiations, including opportunities to protect future Australian GIs. Any final outcomeswill be subject to negotiation.A GI must be protected in its country of origin before it can be protected under an FTA orother international agreement. The rules that underpin each GI need to ensure the GI isaccessible and inclusive and does not exclude communities with a legitimate interest in usingthe GI product. There are currently no GIs for Indigenous products, such as bush foods orbotanicals, established in Australia. The Government is keen to hear from communities andbusinesses interested in establishing a GI in Australia and support may be available.The Australian Government is also committed to an approach on foreign direct investmentthat reflects the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Austrade, forexample, has produced an Investor’s guide to land tenure in Northern Australia. The guidehas been developed as part of the Australian Government’s commitment in the White Paperon developing Northern Australia to provide more business-friendly information on thedifferent land tenure arrangements to increase the appeal of investing in Northern Australia.5

Recommendation 9The committee recommends that the tendering process under the New Employment Services Modelgive special consideration to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses that are alsomainstream providers of employment services.The Australian Government notes this recommendation.The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has released the Request for Proposalfor the New Employment Services Model 2022 seeking responses from organisationsinterested in delivering Enhanced Services.In Employment Regions where there is sufficient demand, specialist providers will use theirexpertise to provide personalised support to some job seeker cohorts, such as Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander people. The Australian Government encourages responses fromAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses for both Generalist and Specialist services.To support greater diversity in the provider market, assistance will be provided to new smallproviders through the establishment of a 5 million capacity-building fund. The fund willassist eligible providers with the costs to achieve quality and security accreditationrequirements.Recommendation 10The committee recommends that payments between Jobactive and Vocational Training andEmployment Centre (VTEC) providers be better aligned so that there are more incentives to placeAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates into jobs, support them to maintain the position andsuccessfully transition into permanent employment.Recommendation 11The committee recommends greater collaboration and integration between VTEC and Jobactiveproviders to further enhance employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander jobseekers.The Australian Government supports in principle these recommendations.The Government announced in the 2021-22 Budget a commitment to develop a new placebased Indigenous Skills and Employment Program (ISEP) to replace the Vocational Trainingand Employment Centres (VTEC), Tailored Assistance Employment Grants (TAEG) andEmployment Parity Initiative (EPI).The ISEP will come into effect on 1 July 2022, to align with the Government’s introductionof Workforce Australia to replace Jobactive.Whilst existing programs will not be adjusted at this time, a revised approach to Indigenousspecific employment investment will ensure any new programs leverage other governmentinvestment, take an evidence-based approach to investment, are locally focused andgenuinely complement mainstream employment services.6

Recommendation 12The committee recommends that in engaging in the process of co-design, the Australian Governmentshould consider incorporating the following elements into the redesign of the CommunityDevelopment Program:- Should be a place-based program and, as far as possible, be jointly governed andadministered with locally and regionally-owned and community-based organisations thatreflect the needs and aspirations of their local communities;- Should recognise the unique characteristics of communities and small area labour marketsand be able to address the difference and diversity in communities across Australia;- Should be part-time work for part-time pay;- Should not be designed as a welfare or job-replacement scheme;- Flexibility should be built into the program design with local communities having aleadership role in determining activities to be undertaken within it;- Consideration should be given to the additional resourcing required for meeting on-costs andthe provision of capital for job creation;- Should support the development of locally generated entrepreneurial activities to create smallbusiness opportunities in remote areas; and- The activity requirements between the newly developed CDP and Jobactive should be betteraligned to stop people moving from one program to another.The Australian Government notes this recommendation.The Government is reforming remote employment services, with the new RemoteEngagement Program to replace the Community Development Program. Key aspects of thereforms will be co-designed and trialled in partnership with a number of remote communitiesahead of implementing the new Remote Engagement Program, to ensure implementation ofthe new program has appropriate flexibility to be tailored to place.The Government will work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop the new program sothat it better enables job seekers to contribute to goods and services that will strengthen theeconomic, social and cultural life of communities while building in-demand skills. The aim isto create a pathway for these job seekers to build skills to find local jobs. The design of thenew program will take into account the need for greater flexibility for employment servicesproviders to tailor the supports they offer to meet the needs of remote job seekers and theircommunities.There are three layers of engagement to co-design the Remote Engagement Program: A local co-design group to co-design the trial Remote Engagement Program for therespective region. The Remote Engagement Program trial regions are Mid West/Westregion and Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia; Barkly (South East Barkly andNorth Barkly) in the Northern Territory; the Eyre region in South Australia; and PalmIsland in Queensland. A national co-design group to co-design the Remote Engagement Program that willbe rolled out nationally to replace the CDP in remote areas. A national consultation process is currently underway, complementing the local andnational co-design initiatives. This process provides opportunities to those who arenot directly involved in the trials or national co-design process to have their say aboutthe future of employment services in remote Australia.7

As part of the co-design process, the Government will bring to the table the followingbuilding blocks for regions to draw on when co-designing their trial program: options to access non-vocational support like family or mental health services options to build vocational skills and training for job seekers an option to trial the Remote Engagement Payment, the new supplementary paymentwithin the social security system, for eligible job seekers to take on a placement in alocal community service to build skills and experience and provide a pathway to a jobin the open labour market options to support job seekers find jobs and apprenticeships.Recommendation 13The committee recommends that training support should be given to meet the needs of individualsand communities for the local labour market, including for identified work under the new CDPprogram. The committee also recommends that where possible, training should be delivered oncountry and should deliver transferable skills.The Australian Government supports in principle this recommendation.The Australian Government has heard what communities and stakeholders have said aboutcurrent and previous remote employment services. The Government recognises that remotecommunities want changes so that future employment services better match place-basedeconomic circumstances and labour market opportunities.As part of the co-design process, the Government will bring to the table a number of buildingblocks that communities can draw upon when co-designing their trial Remote EngagementProgram. One of these building blocks will be an option to build vocational skills and trainingfor job seekers. If a trial region would like to trial this building block, the Government willwork with the local co-design group to identify vocational training needs for the region andpossible solutions to support remote job seekers to find the best vocational training that isappropriate to their individual circumstances- including the skills, capabilities, experienceand activities that are useful in the local or broader labour market.Recommendation 14The committee recommends that in reviewing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employmentprograms, mentoring becomes a central component of any new program.The Australian Government supports in principle this recommendation.The Australian Government recognises the benefits that culturally appropriate mentoring canhave for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.8

Under Jobactive, mentoring support is available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanderparticipants and their employers, host organisations and community members through theEmployment Fund. Pre and post placement mentoring is available, which may includesupport to address participant issues, goal setting, or coaching for a participant at risk ofleaving a job placement due to issues they are facing in the workplace. Under WorkforceAustralia (previously known as the New Employment Services Model, which will replaceJobactive on 1 July 2022), smaller provider caseload ratios will support tailored assistance,including mentoring. Further, support through the Employment Fund will continue to beavailable to assist providers to build their staff’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islandermentoring capability.As part of the new Remote Engagement Program, the Government announced that it wouldco-design and trial the program in five regions in remote Australia. As part of the co-designprocess, the Government will bring to the table a number of building blocks for regions todraw on when co-designing their trial Remote Engagement Program. The Government isseeking to design a new program with enough flexibility for employment services providersto tailor the supports they offer to meet the individual needs of job seekers.On 18 February 2022, the Australian Government announced a 21.9 million IndigenousLeadership and Governance package to support the next generation of Indigenous leaders.The package includes 13.5 million for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience(AIME) to continue its operations and implement a strategic plan for expansion to supportyoung Indigenous Australians to undertake leadership roles, further education andemployment.The additional investment in the AIME program will extend the program by three years to2025 and expand its support to 10,000 students a year, up from the current 6,000 students ayear. This will ensure even more young Indigenous Australians can realise their leadershippotential and career dreams through this proven mentoring and skills development program,and become the next generation of leaders in business, community and the public sector.Recommendation 15The committee recommends that all providers under the New Employment Services Model and therevised CDP be required to contact prospective employers about their willingness to take on a jobseeker with a police record before seeking to place that candidate. The committee furtherrecommends that employers be incentivised to employ such candidates.The Australian Government notes this recommendation.Providers who deliver services under Workforce Australia (previously known as the NewEmployment Services Model, which will replace Jobactive on 1 July 2022), will be expectedto effectively engage with local employers and industries to create employment opportunitiesappropriate for individual participants, including job seekers with a police record. Lowerprovider caseload ratios will support the delivery of intensive case management and allowproviders more opportunity to engage proactively with employers. Specialist providers withexpertise in working with ex-offenders may be licenced to deliver Enhanced Services in somelocations under Workforce Australia.9

As part of co-design and public consultation process for the new Remote EngagementProgram, the Government will work with communities, service providers and localemployers to explore ways providers and local employers could work together to support jobseekers to find a job.Recommendation 16The committee recommends that the Australian Government provides funding, in consultation withlocal communities, through both the New Employment Services Model and the revised CDP toprovide transport options for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander job seekers who would otherwisestruggle to attend work.The Australian Government supports in principle this recommendation.The Australian Government recognises that a lack of access to reliable transport can be asignificant barrier to securing and maintaining employment for many Australians. UnderJobactive and Workforce Australia, support is available through the Employment Fund toassist job seekers with the costs associated with public and private transport for job searchrelated activities.On 31 August 2021, the Government announced that additional support will be madeavailable to fund assistance for job seekers to get a driver’s licence. Job seekers participatingin employment services through a Jobactive provider will be eligible to access increasedsupport for driving lessons to help them complete the required hours to get their driver’slicence. In addition to the increased assistance for driving lessons, Jobactive employmentservices providers can also support job seekers with other travel costs such as public transportand fuel. This support will be retained for Workforce Australia.Under the Community Development Program (CDP), providers can assist job seekers inremote communities to attain their driver’s licence when it is required to gain the skills toparticipate in an activity or secure a job. Transport assistance is also available, including aspart of post placement support to ensure the best chance for CDP job seekers to develop andmaintain a daily routine in a new workplace. Options for ongoing support will be consideredas part of the co-design and consultation of the Remote Engagement Program.Recommendation 17The committee recommends that the Australian Government develop systems to collect timely andreliable data that can track people through the employment, education and welfare system to betterevaluate the success or failure of policies in individual circumstances. The data should includeeconomic and social indicators and outcomes.The Australian Government notes this recommendation.Indigeneity is a key demographic characteristic the Australian Government endeavours toanalyse whenever feasible in performing program evaluations.10

A significant amount of data is already collected by the Australian Government, in additionto that collected by state and territory governments, about Indigenous Australians in theeducation, employment and welfare systems. The Australian Government’s view is thatimproving data interoperability to facilitate analysis and monitoring across different systemswould be more valuable than collecting additional data. Greater data interoperability wouldimprove cross-program monitoring and analysis, and lead to better-informed policyresponses.The Australian Government is building capability to use data integration (including throughthe Australian Bureau of Statistics led Multi-Agency Data Integration Project) to betterunderstand pathways out of income support for Indigenous Australians.11

to strengthen eligibility requirements of joint venture arrangements formed through the incorporation of an Indigenous business and a non-Indigenous business. Since 1 January 2019, to be eligible under the IPP, incorporated Indigenous joint ventures must have in place a strategy to build the