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Origin Energy helps support small Indigenous businesses with valuable mentorship

Rhiannon Clarke -

Indigenous businesses are being empowered through an innovative program that provides them with expert mentorship from experienced professionals at Origin Energy.

This program, which is currently in its pilot stage, is a collaboration between Origin and the Origin Energy Foundation, in partnership with Many Rivers, a not-for-profit organisation that supports Indigenous and other Australians through microenterprise and community economic development.

The program aims to strengthen the operations of small Indigenous businesses and help them achieve growth and success.

Origin's Chief Procurement Officer, Nikki Symonds, highlighted the program's importance, stating that it builds upon their long-standing partnership with Many Rivers, which has already led to the creation of 'Marketplace,' an initiative that integrates Indigenous and local companies into the supply chains of large Australian companies.

"From the Marketplace project we realised that business capability gaps were a common barrier to Indigenous businesses applying for and obtaining contracts," Ms Symonds said.

"To address these gaps, we're engaging seasoned professionals across Origin to coach Indigenous business owners in various aspects of their businesses, including health and safety policies, people management, social media marketing, and invoicing.

"The Origin Energy Foundation has also been instrumental in helping facilitate and structure the coaching engagements."

Matthew Ralph, the Social Responsibility Specialist behind the initiative, said their goal is to expand the potential of small Indigenous businesses, thereby increasing the number of Indigenous businesses that can partner with corporations like Origin.

"As our three-month pilot program nears completion, the coaching sessions with a handful small Indigenous-owned businesses have so far garnered highly positive feedback, with participants finding the skills sharing invaluable for improving their work practices," Mr Hawkins said.

Innovative program empowers Indigenous businesses with expert mentorship. (Image: supplied by Origin)

Col Finlay Earthmoving, a landscape and earthmoving company located in Toowoomba, is one of the participants in the pilot program.

Libby Finlay, who manages the business alongside her husband, emphasised the importance for small businesses to expand and collaborate with larger companies.

Ms Finlay said small businesses want to grow and have the opportunity to work with big companies but in order to do so, they must meet their requirements regarding various management systems and processes.

"So despite the fact that a lot of small, locally-owned businesses are capable of delivering the work, they are being overlooked by big companies because they are lacking the skills in this area and cannot meet their requirements," Ms Finlay said.

"I appreciate a company like Origin taking the time to train small business operators in this very important area. I look forward to learning and improving in order to allow our business to expand and work with larger companies in the future."

Many Rivers Interim Chief Executive Officer, Nathan Hawkins said the project is a great example of the genuine benefits both small businesses and large corporates can realise by working closely together.

"For small businesses, mentorship provides practical advice that can make their business more stable, strategic, and possibly open up new revenue streams," Mr Hawkins said.

"A company like Origin benefits from building relationships with regional and Indigenous businesses to create a positive impact on communities and offer new opportunities for diverse, ethical and local procurement."

The pilot stage will conclude shortly allowing the learnings to be incorporated into an expanded program available to many more Indigenous businesses and communities.

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