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On 17 June 2024 the Minister for Finance, Senator Katy Gallagher, announced updates to the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPRs), and the introduction of the Commonwealth Supplier Code of Conduct (Code). Both the CPRs and the Code came into effect on 1 July 2024. Information on the Code is available on the Finance website, and the Responding to an Approach to Market and If you are awarded a contract sections of the Selling to Government website. Further information on the changes to the CPRs is also available on the Finance website.

If you are an Indigenous business, there are initiatives under the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy which facilitate Australian Government buyers to purchase from your business.

To support Indigenous businesses, Australian Government organisations have annual Indigenous purchasing targets to meet, and performance against these targets are published each financial year on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website.

The information on this page is intended to help Indigenous business owners understand these arrangements. To understand how you should go about selling to the Australian Government in general, please refer to the Guide to selling section of this website.

When are Australian Government buyers required to approach Indigenous businesses for quotes?

Australian Government buyers must adhere to Mandatory Set-Aside arrangements in the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy.

Prior to making a general approach to the market, Australian Government buyers must search for, identify and approach suitable Indigenous businesses first to quote for:

  • All work delivered in remote areas or
  • All contracts wholly delivered in Australia valued between $80,000 to $200,000 (GST inclusive).

In these circumstances, Australian Government buyers must:

  • Conduct a search on Supply Nation’s directory of Indigenous businesses
  • Determine whether any identified Indigenous business could deliver the required good or service on a value for money basis
  • If so, the good or service must be purchased from the supplier.

In meeting these requirements, Australian Government buyers may approach a number of suitable Indigenous businesses for quotes, and must purchase the requested good or service from the business that can deliver the best value for money.

If the buyer cannot identify a suitable Indigenous business, or the identified Indigenous businesses cannot deliver the required goods or services on a value for money basis, the buyer may proceed with a general approach to market.

There are also specific cases where Australian Government buyers are not required to approach Indigenous businesses prior to a general approach to market. These are outlined in the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy.

In particular, the Mandatory Set-Aside does not apply to procurement through mandatory Whole of Australian Government arrangements. More information on Whole of Australian Government arrangements is available on the Understanding Panel Arrangements section of this website.

Are there any other circumstances where Australian Government buyers can directly approach an Indigenous business for quotes?

In certain circumstances, Australian Government organisations can also purchase directly from Indigenous businesses if they are classified as a small and medium enterprise. It is worthwhile letting Australian Government buyers know of the Indigenous ownership of your business as part of this process.

If you are a small and medium enterprise (SME), Australian Government organisations can also purchase directly from you for procurements valued up to $500,000 (GST inclusive).

If an SME is approached on this basis, Australian Government organisations must give Indigenous businesses an opportunity to bid for these goods and services before they can directly engage a non‑Indigenous owned SME. For more information about these arrangements, please refer to the Information for Small Businesses page.

Am I guaranteed to win work under the Indigenous Procurement Policy?

These requirements do not guarantee that you will win work, but they do allow you to get a first go at it. To give your Indigenous business the best chance to win work, you should make sure the product or service you are selling is something the Australian Government is likely to buy, provide a response to any request for quote, and demonstrate that you can deliver the required goods and / or services requested on a value for money basis.

There are a range of supports available to assist you promoting your Indigenous business to Australian Government buyers:

  • Supply Nation’s Capability Hub which provides a range of training sessions, development workshops and practical resources
  • Indigenous Business Australia which can help you start or grow a business and access business support and business finance
  • Indigenous Business and Employment Hubs which cans assist you to access business development advice and support, and provide a culturally appropriate place to work and meet clients:
  • The Office of Defence Industry Support, which is the trusted link for Australian small and medium enterprises looking to enter or expand their footprint in the Defence industry.

How can I showcase my Indigenous business to Australian Government buyers?

Australian Government buyers need to know that you are an Indigenous business, in line with eligibility criteria set out in the Indigenous Procurement Policy, and need to be able to find you to approach you for work.

There are many ways to show the Indigenous ownership of your business. Being a registered or certified business with Supply Nation is one easy way for Australian Government buyers to find your business. As this is the way Australia Government buyers can easily find your business, it is worth investing in your Supply Nation profile and an informative business website.

Supply Nation can assist you to develop your profile and capability statement to ensure it showcases your business’s services, capability, and experience. You can also advertise your Indigenous business registration or certification on your website and in any promotional materials. Visit the Supply Nation website to find out more.

Attending trade shows, and registering with state based Indigenous chambers of commerce, can also be a great way to tell Australian Government buyers about your business.

How do I find out what Australian Government opportunities are coming up for my Indigenous business?

To find information on current and planned opportunities, and find out more about what the Australian Government has been buying, you can use AusTender.

AusTender is the Australian Government’s procurement information system. It provides centralised publication of Australian Government business opportunities, annual procurement plans and contracts awarded.

Can I respond to open tenders on AusTender, or should I wait for Australian Government buyers to approach me as an Indigenous business?

While Australian Government buyers must approach Indigenous businesses to seek quotes for work under specific circumstances, you can also seek out opportunities for your business by responding to open Approaches To Market (ATMs) advertised through AusTender.

When an opportunity has been advertised as an open tender through AusTender, or circulated to specific potential suppliers to request quotes through a panel arrangement or limited tender process, contracts may only be awarded to a supplier that responds to the ATM. If you would like to bid for work that has been advertised, you will need to respond to the ATM.

For more information on identifying opportunities to sell to the Australian Government, responding to an ATM, and getting selected to supply to the Australian Government, please refer to the Guide to Selling section of this website.

Further information on how to use AusTender is available in the Frequently Asked Questions – Using AusTender section of this website, and on the AusTender Help and Information Centre.

Should my Indigenous business try and join a panel or standing offer arrangement?

A ‘standing offer’ is an arrangement with an Australian Government organisation (or group of Australian Government organisations) which specifies a range of goods or services the buyer may expect to purchase over a defined period of time from a supplier. Potential suppliers indicate their willingness and ability to supply those goods and services over the defined period at a particular rate and / or cost, via a response to an approach to market (ATM) to enter into a ‘deed of standing offer’.

Where there are multiple suppliers appointed under a standing offer arrangement, it is commonly called a panel. Generally, the ‘deed of standing offer’ will be the same for each supplier on any given panel.

The Australian Government organisation(s) can then directly go to those businesses whenever they want to buy goods or services covered by that panel. If your business delivers products or services covered by a panel, you may wish to consider applying to join that to panel.

New panels are normally established by an open tender ATM. These are advertised on AusTender and are open for anyone to apply.

Being appointed to a panel is not a guarantee the Australian Government will actually buy anything from your business or indeed any other businesses appointed to the panel. It is important that you conduct your own cost-benefit analysis before responding to a panel ATM and include in your considerations: the cost of responding to the ATM; being on the panel for a number of years; and the cost of quoting and remaining job-ready for the duration.

More information on panel arrangements and standing offers is available in the Understanding Panel Arrangements section of this website.

How can my Indigenous business get involved in major Australian Government contracts?

For certain high value Australian Government contracts, suppliers are required to achieve a minimum percentage of Indigenous employment or supplier use on average over the term of the contract. These suppliers can meet these requirements directly or through sub-contracts, and are required to report their performance to the National Indigenous Australians Agency quarterly.

To get involved in the delivery of these contracts, you may wish to reach out to these suppliers to tell them about your business and how you might be able to help them deliver the goods or services under the contract.

Further information, including a list of Australian Government suppliers which have these Mandatory Minimum Requirement targets (MMR’s) in their high value contracts, is outlined on the Indigenous Procurement Policy website.

I am registered as an Indigenous business on a state or territory government panel, prequalification scheme, or supplier list. Why aren’t Australian Government organisations approaching me for work through these arrangements?

Each state and territory government has their own rules and requirements relating to their procurement framework, including Indigenous procurement policies, which are distinct from the Australian Government’s arrangements.

Australian Government buyers, and Australian Government suppliers with minimum mandatory requirement targets, must comply with requirements under the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy.

I am an Indigenous business, and have been approached to establish an Indigenous joint venture to tender for government work – what should I watch out for?

A joint venture is two or more people, companies or organisations that decide to work together for a specific purpose or project. Each of the participants in the joint venture is responsible for profits, losses, and costs associated with it. However, the venture is its own entity, separate from the participants' other business interests.

There is a risk that businesses may seek to partner with you on an inequitable basis to gain access to work opportunities under Indigenous procurement policies that they would otherwise be unable to access.

As with any business partnership, you should carefully consider and take steps to understand your obligations as a director and / or shareholder, and protect your interests before establishing any joint venture arrangement.

It is important to seek your own independent business support and / or legal advice:

  • before you enter into a joint venture arrangement or other business partnership, and
  • if you find yourself in an arrangement that does not represent a genuine demonstrated level of equitable partnership and benefit.

To be eligible to access contracts under the Indigenous Procurement Policy, Joint Ventures must be registered as an Indigenous Joint Venture with Supply Nation.

Supply Nation Registered businesses and Certified Suppliers must also comply with a Code of Conduct. If you feel that a business partner is not complying with this Code of Conduct, and you wish to make a complaint, you can complete a Complaint form on Supply Nation’s website.

I am being treated unfairly by a business partner or head contractor while delivering work for an Australian Government contract – where can I go to for help?

In the first instance, you should attempt to resolve your dispute with your business partner. Australian Government buyers typically do not have the authority to intervene in contractual matters between business partners, or in their suppliers’ supply chains, but are encouraged to work with direct contractors on their implementation of effective complaints handling processes.

If you are unable to resolve your dispute, there is support available for small businesses to resolve disputes with other businesses.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman helps small business operators to resolve complaints and disputes, including contract and payment disputes and unfair contract term disputes. The ASBFEO is able to examine your matter and either help you directly, or refer your matter to the best placed organisation to help you. For information on how to contact ASBFEO, please refer to ASBFEO’s Contact Us page.

The ASBFEO has also developed the Dispute Support online referral tool that makes it easy to find the most appropriate low cost dispute resolution service to help you resolve your business dispute.

Supply Nation Registered businesses and Certified Suppliers must also comply with a Code of Conduct. If you feel that a business partner is not complying with this Code of Conduct, and you wish to make a complaint, you can complete a Complaint form on Supply Nation’s website.