Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the program is a game-changer for the community. “Businesses aren’t just creating economic value, they’re helping build economic capacity in Indigenous businesses,” she said.
The companies will pledge to increase procurement from Indigenous suppliers each year, starting with 0.5 per cent of “annual influence-able spend”. Spending will rise to three per cent in the fifth year of the program, when total procurement by the companies is expected to exceed $3 billion.
Supply Nation’s chief executive Laura Berry said the Indigenous business sector was growing exponentially.
“Indigenous businesses face many of the same challenges as other businesses – but many are on a much steeper growth curve,” she said.
“Time invested working with Indigenous suppliers will help the sector scale effectively and multiply the overall capability and capacity gain.”
If my old black grandfather didn’t send a name to me, I will walk from Bourke home backwards.
Herb Smith, founder of Dreamtime Tuka
Mr Smith, 67, was stunned by his company’s rapid success, although he’d been mulling the idea of creating a company featuring “Aboriginal-flavoured foods” for decades.
When he pitched his lemon myrtle coconut slice to Qantas’ procurement officers in late 2014, it was a hit. They placed an initial order of 120,000 slices over three months.
The former NSW police officer was stuck for a company name that would make his family proud until he got a message from the past that prompted Dreamtime Tuka.
“If my old black grandfather didn’t send a name to me, I will walk from Bourke home backwards,” he said.
Out of the blue, he remembered how his grandfather Jimmy- an “old bushie and shearer” – would call the children in from the back door for dinner after a day playing outside.
“Hey, come on you kids, come inside and have a feed of tuka and you will get a full belly, and you will go to bed and have sweet dreams,” Jimmy would say.
A Wiradjuri man born in Wellington, south east of Dubbo, NSW, Mr Smith said his passion and vision was to foster economic development for Aboriginal people as well as running a profitable business where he grew up.
He also wanted to spread knowledge of Indigenous culture: “I used to love spending time with my grandmother,” he said.
She would add bush foods to traditional slices, scones and dampers. “And I wanted to create a nice product, and share the knowledge of Aboriginal culture. We’ve been using these ingredients for thousands of years,” he said.
When the slices were served on Qantas, passengers would call him to say they had eaten “wattle seed, cinnamon or lemon myrtle” for the first time.
Dreamtime Tuka also supplies NSW State Rail and all Qantas regional and domestic flights. The company has entered into a joint venture with a Dubbo company Early Rise Bakery.
Mr Smith also wants to create a local pathway to employment for young Indigenous people in the Orana region. “My grandparents would have never thought they would have a grandson on an international carrier,” he said.
Julie Power is a senior journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.