National Farmers' Federation

New report highlights opportunities for strengthening Indigenous agriculture

A landmark report by the National Farmers’ Federation and KPMG released today has underscored the need for better engagement to unlock the economic potential of Indigenous agriculture.

The Realising the Opportunity report, released at an NFF forum in Darwin today, aims to strengthen the economic and cultural empowerment of Indigenous Australians through accessible and collaborative pathways in agriculture.

Chair of the NFF’s Indigenous Engagement Working Group, Natalie Sommerville, a South Australian farmer and descendent of the Wagadagam people of the Torres Strait, hoped the report would progress Australia’s thinking about the important role of Indigenous agriculture and the significant economic opportunity it represents for First Nations peoples.

“For millennia Indigenous Australians have sustainably managed and shaped landscapes for a range of purposes, including the production of food.

“For Indigenous peoples these practices, products, skills and knowledge form an incredibly rich tradition of significant ongoing cultural importance, and also of future economic potential.

“Amplifying these valuable contributions from Indigenous individuals and organisations and collaborating is an enormous opportunity for both Indigenous peoples and our agricultural sector today,” Ms Sommerville said. “The first step is to listen and learn from previous engagement”.

NFF Acting President David Jochinke emphasised the role that Indigenous Australians could play in agriculture becoming Australia’s next $100 billion industry.

“There is a very real and direct connection between reaching growth ambitions, the economic empowerment of Indigenous peoples, and Closing the Gap across the full range of social outcomes.

“To unlock that potential, we need to do better at attracting Indigenous Australians to the industry, and supporting and promoting Indigenous agribusinesses,” Mr Jochinke said.

KPMG Partner and Agribusiness Sector Lead Georgie Aley said the report’s findings are underpinned by broad stakeholder consultation.

“Access to current and reliable data on the scale and contribution of Indigenous Australians in agriculture has been a challenge, which is a fundamental hurdle we have to collectively overcome.

“To compile this report, we consulted with a wide range of Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders from across the agriculture industry.

“We heard consistently that we need to better bridge traditional and contemporary agriculture and strengthen Indigenous engagement in agriculture, and we’ve made practical recommendations to help the industry down that path,” Ms Aley said.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Building cultural awareness across the industry to better attract and retain an Indigenous workforce;
  • Wider adoption of Reconciliation Action Plans;
  • Endorsement of joint ventures that balance Caring for Country and commercial agriculture;
  • Unlocking culturally-appropriate access to capital for Indigenous businesses;
  • Better promotion of Indigenous agribusiness and agricultural products.

Mr Jochinke said the NFF would now consider these recommendations as it progresses its Indigenous policy work.

“We acknowledge that as an organisation we are at an early stage of improving our engagement with Indigenous cultural awareness.

“We’re grateful for the work that KPMG has done in this report to help progress industry’s thinking, and offer us practical advice on a path forward.

“We’re committed to deepening our engagement and helping amplify the contribution of Indigenous Australians as a central part of the industry’s growth,” Mr Jochinke concluded. The full report is available here.