Indigenous business grows even as crisis throws up new challenges
Business expansion has enabled Vivid Indigenous Services to partner with other organisations such as the JT Academy. Image source: Vivid Property Services.
Cleaning services the world over are playing a critical role in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cleaners are on the frontline to ensure the wellbeing and safety of individuals communities.
While this new-found - albeit gloomy - demand for cleaning has meant increased business and profits for some, one Australian cleaning service company has dedicated itself to more than impeccable cleaning services; they have a vision to help achieve economic independence for Indigenous Australians.
Vivid Indigenous Services (VIS) is the brainchild of Scott Agnew, a founder of Vivid Property Services (VPS), and Susan Moylan–Coombs, Director of The Gaimaragal Group.
Scott and Susan wanted to provide more than cleaning and maintenance services, they set out to improve Indigenous employment and business ownership, from metro to remote communities across Australia – and they’re making tremendous inroads.
VIS staff have access to training and pathway opportunities. Image source: Vivid Indigenous Services.
A promising future
According to the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy (2018), of the 2.1 million businesses in Australia, an estimated 12,000 to 16,000 are Indigenous-owned. The Australian Government predicts that with the right support, the Indigenous sector could grow by 8,000 in the next 10 years.
As it stands, Indigenous businesses currently make a notable contribution to both Australian and international economies. Supply Nation is Australia’s leading directory of verified Indigenous businesses and their registered businesses contribute more than $1 billion per year to the economy and revenues growing an average of 12.5 per cent annually.
A Social Return on Investment Report (SROI) by Supply Nation found that for every dollar of revenue, Certified Suppliers create $4.41 of economic and social value, demonstrating the very real, tangible benefits of the Indigenous business sector.
It also means that companies with well-developed Indigenous procurement strategies, such as JLL and ANZ, can create strong financial and social returns through their ordinary sourcing activity.
While the numbers are promising, it is the work of companies such as Vivid Indigenous Services, committed to supporting business growth and connection between communities, that really contributes to a more stable economic future for Australia's First people.
Source: The Indigenous Business Sector Strategy, 2018.
Down to business: Vivid Indigenous Services
ANZ branches in Australia’s Capital Territory (ACT) have been clients of VIS for about four years, with big sister company VPS providing cleaning services to branches in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
When VIS secured the cleaning services contract for ANZ branches in Queensland through JLL earlier this year, they grew from servicing just seven ANZ branches to more than 100. With administration and infrastructure already in place, expansion was seamless and importantly provided a spike in employment opportunities for Indigenous communities across the state.
The ACT contract allowed all parties to ‘dip their toes’ in the water and start small. JLL National Vendor Manager Guy Cartwright is firm that making sure the expansion was done in a sustainable way that wasn't going to be detrimental to the relationship, delivery or employment was critical.
“Through our expansion with Vivid Indigenous Services (VIS) we are partnering with a provider who has growth, development, support and opportunities within Indigenous communities at the forefront of their business as well as offering a valuable service to ANZ” Guy says.
JLL have been working closely in partnership with ANZ for a number of years to support both their own and JLL’s respective Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) through increased engagement of Indigenous owned businesses.
Michelle Jarman, VIS Bids and Tender Manager, says VIS is gaining traction with large corporate clients.
“These relationships enable us to convey a better understanding around cultural awareness and the importance of corporate responsibility to provide opportunities and pathways for Indigenous people,” she says.
With expansion comes the added opportunity to increase funding and a greater ability to invest in the community.
Maliyans United Football Team. Image source: Vivid Property Services.
Spring-boarding to a new level
According to VIS employment opportunities within the Indigenous community are sometimes limited, due to a myriad of factors including a small recruitment pool.
As the business has grown, key philanthropic priorities have shifted to focus on funding for community groups, partnerships and initiatives. This also includes scholarships, career pathways and investment in specific Indigenous communities to help them become self-sufficient and sustainable moving into the future.
The expanded contract has also enabled VIS to work alongside the Jonathan Thurston(JT) Academy. Michelle says “It has helped facilitate engagement with other Indigenous businesses creating new opportunities for employment throughout Queensland”.
Jade North, Client Relationship Manager VIS adds “The partnership with the JT Academy has spring-boarded Vivid into a different area now. And it's something that we're really proud of. Being based in Queensland and heavily active in the community, I can really see the benefits, especially since the expansion of the cleaning contract with JLL.”
Passionate about getting out into the communities and really making difference, Jade is a mentor to young people within the Indigenous community, including VIS workers.
“I go to see our Indigenous workers once or twice a week just to make sure that everything's okay. Having grown up in an Indigenous community, I know what it's like to have mentors around,” Jade says.
“At the end of the day, the service delivery is the end result. And we want to make sure that everything is going well from a business perspective. I guess that's the beauty; I've got a unique position where I can act as a mentor as well as a colleague - it's just something that makes it special to me.”
Jade North, ambassador for GIVIT. Image source: Vivid Indigenous Services.
A professional footballer, Jade is passionate about sporting programs that lead to education or scholarship opportunities for kids.
He spearheads a football program Kick with a Cuz, is an ambassador for GIVIT’s National Indigenous Support Program (NISP) and is involved with the Maliyans United (Indigenous Men’s and Women’s), football team who VIS sponsors to play in the national Indigenous three day soccer tournament in Brisbane each year.
Jade has seen first-hand how the tournament radically improves young lives by being surrounded by culture, role models and a positive environment. He recounts one particular 17-year-old boy that went from the brink of suicide to being one of the best players in Brisbane today.
“If it had not been for the opportunities Vivid provides, who knows what would have happened,” he says.
“What we are able to do has an impact on people's lives, and we are really proud of that.”
JUTE keeps Indigenous storytelling alive