In the next ten years the Federal Government will spend $270 billion on defence and the WA Government wants Indigenous businesses winning those contracts.
Defence West is the State Government office tasked with turning WA into a defence industry powerhouse.
The organisation lobbies federal ministers to bring defence manufacturing to WA and works with businesses to build capacity for bigger projects.
Matt Moran is the Executive Director of Defence West. He sees great opportunities for Aboriginal employment in the defence industry.
“If we get more Indigenous businesses involved in defence contracts, that will then increase Indigenous employment. We know that Indigenous businesses employ more Indigenous Australians,” he said.
“If we can help those businesses win contracts that’ll mean more apprenticeships or traineeships and professional employment pathways.”
Moran said Defence West actively works with companies looking to expand into the complex but lucrative defence field.
“Working with defence is complex, it takes time, some companies need a lot of help to get up to the level they need to then start effectively engaging with defence,” he said.
The team meets with companies looking to get involved in defence and provides information about grant and funding opportunities, helping them to be more competitive in the market.
“It’s important that Defence West helps eligible and motivated businesses pivot their offerings to competitively bid for federal defence contracts and that’s something we would really like Indigenous businesses to be part of,” Moran said.
While WA’s defence industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds, Moran said it’s a niche that hasn’t been fully tapped into by Indigenous businesses.
“If [Indigenous businesses] can get into supply chains of big defence prime contractors, they’ve got a good opportunity to expand their business and grow.”
He said while Defence West has had some involvement in the occupational health and building and construction spaces, the office is after more engagement with small and medium Indigenous businesses.
That’s why Defence West is attending the Indigenous Emerging Business Forum on Friday, to spruik the business opportunities available in WA defence.
Moran said the forum, run by Telstra Business Technology Centre Perth North, is an opportunity to build a critical mass of interest in the industry.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time, and then if you get a group of like-minded people together, change can happen. And that’s what we hope will be achieved at the forum.”
Defence West is focused on innovation and according to Moran, building diversity in the industry is part of that.
“Our defence science centre is looking at innovation all the time; how we can improve things, how we can help solve problems. From my perspective, more diversity in the workforce is a great thing.”
By Sarah Smit
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