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First Nations lawyer wants to eradicate "Black cladding" through a series of masterclasses

Brendan Foster -

First Nations lawyer Matthew Karakoulakis is committed to supporting Indigenous companies that want to be doing business right, without the practice of “Black cladding”.

The founder of AMK Law, with familial connections to Kokatha peoples and also Narungga peoples from the York Peninsula, has decided to launch a Battle Against Black Cladding Masterclass (BaM) series to stamp out the unjust practice.

“If you are part of an Aboriginal business, you might already know it’s time to stand up and put an end to it because only then will First Nations business leaders and First Nations communities realise the true benefits business can bring for our communities and a better future,” he told the National Indigenous Times.

“The need to create this change, in a self-determined, black excellence way is the driver and the motivator towards making the battle against black cladding masterclass (BaM) happen.

“The aim of the BaM masterclass series is designed to equip First Nations business leaders, procurement teams, government and corporations with the knowledge and strategies needed to identify, prevent and be empowered against black cladding.

“By educating these key decision makers, the aim is to nurture an environment of informed choice, self-determination, and excellence amongst Aboriginal businesses and their partners.”

Black cladding is when non-Indigenous companies boost their Indigenous shareholder base or claim to be a First Nation businesses in a bid to win contracts.

According to the federal government's Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP), an Aboriginal business is defined as a business with at least 50 per cent Indigenous ownership.

Under the current federal IPP, three per cent of all contracts, and 1.75 per cent of the value of all contracts, must be awarded to businesses that qualify as First Nation businesses.

Since it was introduced in 2015, the IPP has generated over $9 billion in contracts for more than 3,600 Indigenous businesses.

Mr Karakoulakis said Black cladding was stunting the First Nations economy and encouraged Indigenous companies to take part in the BaM masterclasses to become an ally to eradicate it.

“BaM brings authentic, tailored and needed change to reporting, benchmarking, contracts, responsibilities and all in the powerful way that’s needed before First Nations business can fully realise the Closing the Gap outcomes that’s so desperately needed,” he said.

“Key to this all and what people learn through my Battle Against Black Cladding Masterclass (BaM) is that understanding the legal and ethical frameworks within the First Nations business environment and how to do First Nations business, right as a form of leadership, through reporting, advocacy, and having authentic First Nations business outcomes for the community.”

Mr Karakoulakis said there was a lot of anger in the Indigenous community because black cladding was only getting worse. 

“Most definitely because black cladding comes up time and time again, whether in the context of the incorporated joint venture and the unincorporated joint venture,” he said. 

“As soon as you see the non-Indigenous business entity or individual taking unfair advantage of an Indigenous business entity or individual for the purpose of gaining access to otherwise inaccessible Indigenous procurement policies or contracts.” 

Mr Karakoulakis said if procurement teams and corporate legal teams were serious about taking measures to prevent black cladding, then one of the mechanisms might be verifying First Nations businesses and requiring them to be majority-owned and controlled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when tendering for contracts under government procurement policies. 

He said this needs to be followed by proper and transparent engagements with reporting and monitoring at the forefront to ensure First Nations businesses are truly engaged with both the integrity and transparency required.

Mr Karakoulakis said Supply Nation and the state chambers of commerce were critical as a process for regulation.

“Better yet, let’s have more action from our corporate regulators ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) and the ACCC (Australia Competition and Consumer Commission) through the legislation which empowers Australian Consumer Law, ASIC Act, Corporations Act conduct provisions and there must be proper Aboriginal business leadership as one of these key ingredients,” he said.

“Supply Nation has some checks and balances as well as a five-step verification process, but is Supply Nation really the appropriate regulator, especially when you compare their little to nil enforcement powers when compared to the Commonwealth government regulators like ASIC and the ACCC.”

Mr Karakoulakis encouraged people to “stay tuned and aware” through social media and the AMK Law website to find more information about BaM and register for reserving a place.

“We are now taking enquiries from those interested in this vital initiative, together we can make a significant impact, we welcome support from those ready to engage with this critical initiative to unite our efforts in becoming a champion for change through the BaM masterclass and if all goes to plan delivery will be happening very soon,” he said.





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