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NAB targets $1 billion lending for First Nations business sector

David Prestipino -

Indigenous Business Australia and NAB will collaborate to support more Indigenous businesses to access capital and create opportunities for financial education and training for First Nations business owners.

The guarantee will enable IBA and NAB to support more Indigenous business customers to access capital through access to NAB's specialist bankers and commercial lending solutions, with the institution aiming to double its lending to First Nations businesses to $1 billion over the next three years.

The MoU also outlined how IBA and NAB would cohere to provide Indigenous businesses access to mainstream services and improve financial education and training for First Nations organisations.

NAB Indigenous Business Banking executive Noel Prakash said his institution's business banking strength was the right support to help First Nations businesses grow.

"First Nations businesses are leading the charge by driving self-determination, and rapidly improving financial capability and inclusion," he said.

"Working with First Nations people, we want to strengthen financial resilience, increase business and employment opportunities, and remove the barriers that have traditionally made it hard for First Nations customers and businesses to access financial services.

"NAB has set a new target to more than double our lending to First Nations businesses and community organisations to at least $1 billion over the next three years."

IBA CEO Kirsty Moore said their vision was for First Nations people to be economically independent and an integral part of the economy.

"The growth of the First Nations business sector is incredibly exciting. With over 65,000 years of existence, they bring a wealth of knowledge and innovation as our original entrepreneurs," she said.

"Aligned with the recent 2023 Indigenous Business Month theme, 'To Gather, Together', the collaboration with NAB works to bring resources together that benefit our First Nations businesses and we look forward to seeing this sector grow."

The announcement came the same day NAB launched a new partnership with DeadlyScience, an Indigenous charity which aims to develop better opportunities for First Nations people to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Across a two-year partnership agreement, NAB will encourage the bank's STEM-qualified colleagues to take on skilled volunteering opportunities that will support DeadlyScience's school programs.

As one of the largest technology employers in Australia, NAB employs more than 5,000 technology experts including data scientists, software engineers, cyber security specialists and AI experts.

NAB Chief Technology Officer Steve Day said it was critical NAB supported Indigenous students to develop the digital skills of the future and help boost Australia's tech talent pool.

"For so many years, Australia has run into the same problem that has held us back in the tech industry, and that's the need for a better pipeline of technology workers," Mr Day said.

DeadlyScience was founded in 2018 by Corey Tutt, a Kamilaroi man from Nowra in New South Wales who was named Young Australian of the Year in 2020.

The organisation supports regional and remote Australian schools that are critically under-resourced and lack the same learning experience as students in urban areas.

According to the Government's 2020 Australia's STEM Workforce Report, just 0.5% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has a university degree in STEM subjects compared to 5.2% among non-Indigenous Australians.

Mr Tutt said working with NAB will help to break down barriers for thousands of young Indigenous people.

"Since our creation in 2018, we've worked with over 800 schools and community organisations and we're proud of how far we've come along the way, but there's still a huge gap in STEM accessibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners," Mr Tutt said.

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