Indigenous small business owners are a small but important group within the community. In 2006, 6% of employed Indigenous people indicated they ran their own business, compared to 17% of employed non-Indigenous people.1 Nevertheless, many believe that an increase in Indigenous economic participation could help close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people2.

Unfortunately, little is known about Indigenous small business in Australia. Leading academics and government agencies have acknowledged this gap. 3

This report is the result of a three month exploratory study by Tax Office researchers into Indigenous small businesses. Our researchers interviewed a wide range of experts, both internally and externally, distributed questionnaires and analysed a wide range of published case studies and reports from academia and government agencies.

The purpose of the exploratory study was to do the following:

  • explore the common features of Indigenous small business in Australia
  • recognise the characteristics associated with business success
  • identify factors that may lead to business failure.

The study was undertaken to support our Small business assistance program and Reconciliation action plan.

In 2007, we launched our Small business assistance program. Our objective was to 'increase certainty for small businesses and people new to business'.4 We aimed to personalise this assistance to the particular circumstances and needs of businesses.

That same year, we also launched our Reconciliation action plan.5 One of our objectives was to understand the needs of Indigenous communities and develop options for better servicing Indigenous communities and businesses.

The first section of this paper presents a profile of Indigenous small business owners in Australia. We then develop a practical model of successful Indigenous business owners.

    Last modified: 18 Nov 2009QC 22397