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Issue #1619      November 20, 2013

Govt axes Aboriginal business unit, jobs

The NSW government has cut identified Aboriginal positions in its Aboriginal Business Development Service (ABDS) and has decided to “mainstream” the unit. The ABDS has been operating for more than 10 years and offers support by experienced Aboriginal public servants to other Indigenous people looking to set up a small business or further develop their small to medium business.

It provides specialist support for trade shows, marketing, online development, export advice and a range of other services.

A source, who did not want to be identified, told the Koori Mail newspaper that not only were the Aboriginal public servants devastated by the cuts, but businesspeople had been “extremely upset” by the loss of the specialised service.

“A non-Aboriginal service won’t provide that dedicated one-on-one attention and support,” the source said. “It feels like we’re going back to the White Australia policy.

“Under the government’s new Aboriginal Affairs plan OCHRE, it says they’re going to increase the number of Aboriginal businesses, that the framework of Aboriginal economic development is important, so everyone was really looking forward to developing even further.

“But instead of supporting identified positions and encouraging senior workers, they’ve cut the specialised service.

Chef and owner of the Jaaning Tree restaurant in Nambucca on the NSW mid north coast, Clayton Donovan, said that when he and his wife were starting their business five years ago the ABDS was invaluable.

“They understood that I had an idea but the tools to build a business weren’t there, and I needed help,” he said. “They helped me to kick off the idea and it’s snowballed in amazing directions – if it wasn’t for those guys it wouldn’t have happened.

“The staff were more than willing to help implement my vision.

“I think it would be a pity if the service ceased, because some of these people have built up networks over the years and they understand the problems and pitfalls with business.

“When we started out no-one in my family had worked in hospitality, so the Aboriginal staff helped to guide me and helped me fund a dream I had. Five years ago I had a dream and now I’ve got a successful business, a TV show coming up, we’ve won a range of awards, we’re in the Good Food Guide, my wife has developed bush tucker condiments and all this has happened because of the help we received along the way.

“They helped us open doors that wouldn’t have been open otherwise.”

NSW Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Stoner, the Deputy Premier, blamed the federal government for the cuts and said his department would continue to provide support for Aboriginal businesses through other avenues.

“Due to this funding being axed by the former federal Labor government, and in light of a constrained fiscal environment, the department has focussed resources on delivering services to Aboriginal businesses through its network of business development managers, regional export advisors and an expanded network of Small Biz Connect advisors,” he said.

“Together these represent a substantial level of expertise that Aboriginal businesses can draw on to help drive employment outcomes and grow their business. Small Biz Connect is also working with Aboriginal Affairs to increase awareness of its programs and services to the Aboriginal business community.

“NSW Trade and Investment staff also work with all businesses, including Aboriginal businesses, to help them access targeted financial support programs to deliver jobs growth and business investment including the Jobs Action Plan and the Regional Industries Investment Fund. Staff will also be encouraging businesses to utilise the recently announced Skilled Regional Relocation Incentive, another program to provide targetted financial support for businesses, including Aboriginal businesses, in NSW.”

Mr Stoner said Aboriginal business development managers in Dubbo and Lismore would remain.

Koori Mail

Next article – Bentleigh voters say no to TAC changes

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