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Local Indigenous businesses banding together for mutual benefit

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The Canberra Indigenous Business Network (CIBN) promotes and supports local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses in Canberra and the surrounding region.

CIBN was formally established at the end of 2018 after inviting local Indigenous business owners who were interested to be a part of the development of a network that worked collectively to support the cultural practice of inclusiveness.

CIBN was formed with the values of respect, collaboration, mentoring, networking and advice sharing.

Network Director Belinda Kendall (pictured above, second from left), who is the managing director of professional services company Curijo, said Indigenous businesses had benefitted from networking and support through the CIBN. So far, the CIBN has brought together 12 members to help and learn from each other.

At a time when systemic racism is being examined in Australia and around the world through the Black Lives Matter movement, CIBN member Tina McGhie said it was time for the community to reassess any racism or unconscious bias it may have towards Indigenous business, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Racism and the western systems we work in aren’t for Aboriginal people to address alone—it’s for all of Australia to address.”

Belinda said she understood how white privilege made many people feel uncomfortable and unsure of what to do.

“We don’t learn unless there is a level of discomfort and these conversations need to happen—we are all in this together.”

She wanted people to ask themselves whether they believed Indigenous businesses were as high quality as non-Indigenous businesses, and to consider how these views were formed.

“One of the things the CIBN wants most of all to prove is that our members are not asking for any special favours, they want to be considered for work because they do a great job and can compete for it, they just maybe don’t have the public profile.”

The CIBN is registered with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.

“We have embraced our cultural practice of collaboration and created the network together to get as many Aboriginal businesses as we can onboard to grow our network and community presence and maximise business opportunities for the network members,” Belinda said.

While this support focussed on helping members better engage with the Government and private sector it also included partnering between some of the smaller businesses to increase capacity or referring work on. CIBN members have varied capabilities offered and share and support one another.

For example, Belinda’s own company Curijo, which provides strategic services around Aboriginal affairs and mainstream consultancy, business insights and capability services, was recently contacted about a piece of work.

“The work was not really in our space but I was able to refer them on to another member who suited the job. So it is really about being able to know and promote each other and all grow together.”

Member businesses include those which were successful and established small-to-medium-sized enterprises to start-ups.

The biggest hurdles for new Indigenous businesses were the same as non-Indigenous businesses—establishing relationships, finding opportunities to do high-quality work and provide high-quality services and products, and often coming up against competition from bigger companies.

But Belinda said Indigenous businesses brought added value to their clients.

“Our strength is bringing our Aboriginal values and inclusion to any relationship and job.”

The CIBN is open to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business or sole trader registered in the Canberra and surrounding region and can be contacted at canberraibn@gmail.com

Information about the CIBN member businesses can be found at cibn.net.au/ourmob

Feature image: Russell Styche (Director and member), Belinda Kendall (Director and member), Mark Sanderson (Director and Member), Ngioka Kamira Sams (CIBN Administration Support), Jo Kamira (Specialist Director).

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