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Opportunity and prosperity

Our shared commitment:

Building opportunity and economic prosperity for all Aboriginal Victorians.

Fully participating in the economy provides Aboriginal Victorians with the resources they need to determine the future they want. Economic participation is therefore key to Aboriginal self‑determination. Building work opportunities for Victorian Aboriginal young people, women, people living with a disability and those in regional areas is key to inclusive economic growth ensuring Aboriginal Victorians are represented at all levels, across all sectors and pursuits.

Goal 8: Aboriginal workers achieve wealth equality

8.1 Increase Aboriginal household income in line with the Victorian median
8.2 Increase Aboriginal home ownership in line with the Victorian average


  • 8.1.1 Median household income and median equivalised household income
  • 8.1.2 Proportion of home owners versus other tenure types (by age bracket)

The income and home ownership levels of Aboriginal Victorians are steadily improving, and more Aboriginal workers are achieving their economic aspirations across a range of financial indicators.

In the 10-year period spanning 2006 to 2016, median household income for Aboriginal Victorians has increased from around $40,000 to over $60,000 per annum. This means that half of all Aboriginal Victorian households earned more than $60,000 per annum.

In the same period, the gap in both median household income and estimated median equivalised household income3 has decreased between Aboriginal Victorians and non-Aboriginal Victorians (from 25.4 to 15.6%, and 37.6 to 30.3% respectively).

Further, over 2006 to 2016 the proportion of home ownership for Aboriginal Victorians has increased by around 3%, while over the same period the proportion for non-Aboriginal Victorians has decreased by around 4%.

Despite making significant headway towards income and wealth equality, Victoria still has some way to go until economic parity is achieved. In 2016, the median weekly personal income for Aboriginal Victorians was $167 below parity, and the rate of home ownership was 1.5 times higher for non-Aboriginal Victorians.

3. Equivalised household income is total household income adjusted by the number of people in a household to more accurately compare household income.

8.3 Increase Aboriginal business ownership and support Aboriginal entrepreneurs


  • 8.3.1 Number of Victorian business owner-managers who are Aboriginal
  • 8.3.2 Aboriginal businesses that government enters into a purchase agreement with as a proportion of small to medium enterprises government enters into a purchase agreement with

Rates of Aboriginal business ownership in Victoria are rapidly increasing. In 2006, there were approximately 700 Aboriginal business owner managers; by 2016, that increased over 80% to around 1,300. This increase is far in excess of the rate of population growth, indicating a higher proportion of Aboriginal Victorians are starting businesses.

Kinaway Chamber of Commerce Victoria Ltd

Kinaway’s purpose is to provide business support and advice to Victorian Aboriginal business people and help improve the visibility and networks of Aboriginal businesses to strengthen relationships and create opportunities. The Victorian Government funded Kinaway to develop an Aboriginal business directory to support both government and the private sector to procure Victorian Aboriginal businesses.

Procuring Aboriginal Businesses in the Victorian Public Sector

Government can play an important role in driving demand for purchasing from Aboriginal business. Under Tharamba Bugheen: Victorian Aboriginal Business Strategy 2017-2021 the Victorian Government has committed to a 1% procurement target from 2019-20.

From July 2018 to June 2019, the Victorian Government engaged in contracts with 94 Victorian Aboriginal businesses, Traditional Owner Group entities and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO), to the value of $17 million. This represents 0.4% of government procurement from small to medium enterprises.

Under the Social Procurement Framework and Tharamba Bugheen several other activities are also underway to further promote government procurement from Aboriginal service providers and businesses, including reviewing procurement and funding policies and guidelines and practices across whole of government.

Blooming Businesses

In March 2019, 30 Aboriginal women attended a workshop at Mount Evelyn to learn about running a bushfood business.

The event took place on International Women’s Day and focused on providing\ insight and information for the development and growth of businesses that produce products and services from Aboriginal bushfood and botanicals.

Speakers included high-profile Aboriginal bushfood and botanicals businesswomen, Aunty Dale Chapman and Sharon Winsor, who shared tips on establishing and sustaining a bushfood business.

Ngarrimili: Igniting and Nurturing Aboriginal Excellence

Aboriginal Victorians who are stepping out into business ownership are being supported by 4 organisations funded by the Victorian Government through Tharamba Bugheen and LaunchVic to provide culturally-safe business tools, programs and workshops.

One such organisation, Ngarrimili, received $492,500 to run Project Ngarrimili: Igniting and Nurturing Aboriginal Excellence - a partnership between Strong Brother Strong Sister and Impact Co.

Meaning ‘to dance’ in Wadawurrung, Ngarrimili inspires and nurtures entrepreneurial excellence within Aboriginal communities across Victoria via 3 programs:

  • Ignite: a series of workshops to ignite local Aboriginal people to pursue entrepreneurship.
  • Accelerate: workshops to support pre-revenue start-ups led by Aboriginal people to articulate and validate their concepts.
  • Enhance: an incubator program for Aboriginal-led ventures designed to support cultural wellbeing and commercial needs through technical know-how

Goal 9: Strong Aboriginal workforce participation, in all sectors and at all levels

9.1 Increase Aboriginal workforce participation


  • 9.1.1 Employment to population ratio
  • 9.1.2 Proportion employed in full-time versus part-time or casual employment
  • 9.1.3 Aboriginal jobseekers supported into work

In the 10-year period spanning 2006 to 2016, the employment to population ratio for Aboriginal Victorians has increased by around 3%, indicating a greater proportion of the Victorian Aboriginal population is employed.

Between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of employed persons aged 15-64 working full-time has remained relatively similar to that of non-Aboriginal Victorians.

The Victorian Government funds several training and employment linkage programs to support Aboriginal job-seekers. In August 2016, funding of $39.2 million for 38 new employment services through the Jobs Victoria Employment Network (JVEN) was announced.

Under the first JVEN funding round, 5 targeted services for Aboriginal job-seekers received a total of $5.6 million to support 480 job placements. In addition, 16 multi-target applications received a total of $17.1 million for programs that included Aboriginal job-seekers as a target group.

Since 2016, Jobs Victoria has supported over 700 Aboriginal job-seekers into work placements across 36 sites Victoria-wide. The largest number of Aboriginal job placements are in regional areas including Mildura, East Gippsland and Greater Shepparton. Of job-seekers completing placements with Jobs Victoria, over half have commenced employment.

Geelong Aboriginal Employment Agreements

14 organisations in the Geelong region have signed up to an Aboriginal Employment Agreement. The Agreements include 3 overall goals for organisations to achieve:

  • increasing the number of Aboriginal people employed in each organisation
  • adopting an Aboriginal Employment Strategy, Reconciliation Action Plan, Inclusion Plan or equivalent
  • adopting an Acknowledgement of Country protocol.

Aboriginal Workforce Development Initiative

The Aboriginal Workforce Development Initiative (AWDI) was designed in partnership with ACCOs and the Victorian Government to develop models for streamlined and flexible investment in line with commitment to the principles of self-determination.

ACCOs can access this investment to meet the needs of the sector and support growth of the community services workforce. AWDI values Aboriginal knowledge and the expertise within the sector and acknowledges that ACCOs are best placed to develop programs to meet their workforce growth and training needs and how success will be measured.

Through AWDI, over 250 ACCO workers will undertake community service qualifications across Victoria to significantly uplift skills and qualifications across the sector. AWDI is supported by the Department of Health and Human Services, Family Safety Victoria and the Department of Education and Training with investment through the Regional and Specialist Training Fund.

9.2 Increase workforce participation for Aboriginal women

9.3 Increase workforce participation for Aboriginal young people, people with a disability and people living in regional areas


  • 9.2.1 Workforce participation of women
  • 9.3.1 Workforce participation by age, disability status and regional versus metropolitan

Between 2006 to 2016, workforce participation4 for Aboriginal Victorians increased across all age groups. This indicates the positive workforce participation trend for Aboriginal Victorians is widely distributed across the population.

These trends are also promising because for several age groups and for Aboriginal women, workforce participation is increasing for Aboriginal Victorians at a faster rate than for non-Aboriginal Victorians.

Workforce participation results over this period are particularly promising for older Aboriginal people aged 55-65 years, who increased their workforce participation by around 13%. This indicates that Aboriginal Victorians are remaining in the workforce longer. However, relative to non-Aboriginal older people, Aboriginal Victorians are still leaving employment before reaching retirement age at a higher rate.

Results are also promising for young Aboriginal Victorians aged 15-24 who increased their workforce participation rate by around 6% between 2006 to 2016. Workforce participation for non-Aboriginal young people decreased by around 4% over the same period.

However, workforce participation for Aboriginal Victorians who live in regional and remote areas has not seen the same level of progress. Workforce participation in these areas for Aboriginal Victorians is much lower compared to metropolitan areas. This indicates the need to target workforce strategies to Aboriginal Victorians in outer regional and remote areas.

Despite making headway, there remains a significant gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians across all measures of workforce participation.

Aboriginal staff bring unique knowledge, skills and expertise to the workforce, including understanding the needs and aspirations of the Aboriginal community. Providing opportunities for increased workplace participation is key to building economic prosperity for Aboriginal Victorians.

4. In this Report, workforce participation is defined as the proportion of the working-age population aged 15-64 who reported being either employed or unemployed but looking for work in the ABS census.

Aboriginal Businesswomen Landmark Research Project

The Project was commissioned in 2019 to inform how government can improve support for Aboriginal women at different stages of their business journey.

Led by a team of Victorian Aboriginal women, the project engaged with Aboriginal businesswomen through surveys, in-depth case studies and a networking event.

The engagement found that Aboriginal businesswomen are often motivated by making an impact in their communities, including by creating employment opportunities and involving other Aboriginal women in their supply chains. These findings will contribute to the development of the new Victorian Aboriginal Economic Strategy.

9.4 Increase Aboriginal leadership and representation across all sectors and levels


  • 9.4.1 Aboriginal employment by sector, industry and occupation, with analysis by growth industry
  • 9.4.2 Aboriginal people employed across the VPS (with 2% target by 2022)
  • 9.4.3 Number of Aboriginal people at VPS 6 level and above in the VPS
  • 9.4.4 Number of Aboriginal people participating on government boards

Aboriginal Victorians are employed across all sectors of the Victorian economy. It is important to highlight growth areas for employment for Aboriginal Victorians to continue to plan for a future of prosperity.

In 2016, the health care and social assistance industry was the largest employer of Aboriginal Victorians, accounting for 15.4% of Aboriginal jobs. This was followed by public administration and safety, construction and retail trade. A greater proportion of Aboriginal Victorians are also employed in the public sector.

Of the highest earning industries with job growth, Aboriginal Victorians are most under-represented in the professional, scientific and technical services industry and the financial and services industry, accounting for only 4.0 and 1.8% of Aboriginal employment respectively. This demonstrates the need to promote more opportunities for Aboriginal Victorians in high earning industries with job growth, such as through industry scholarships, particularly for young Aboriginal people entering the workforce.

Regarding occupation, over 2006 to 2016, the proportion of Aboriginal Victorians working in skilled occupations generally increased, while the proportion working in unskilled occupations generally decreased. However, relative to their non-Aboriginal counterparts, Aboriginal Victorians remain significantly under-represented in skilled occupations.

Segmentation across occupation and sector is likely to reflect divergent educational and employment opportunities. For example, Aboriginal Victorians are much more likely to undertake vocational education compared to other Victorians leading to often different career pathways.

Living in regional areas is also likely to affect occupational choices with a larger number of jobs available in the social services sector relative to professional or private sector jobs more common in metropolitan areas.

In 2017, the Victorian Public Sector (VPS) adopted a 5-year Aboriginal employment strategy, Barring Djinang 2017-2022. Its 16 initiatives include a strong focus on enhancing career options and experiences of Aboriginal staff members.

The strategy includes a 2% Aboriginal staff target for the VPS. At June 2018, there were 553 Aboriginal staff in the VPS which equates to around 1.2% of all public sector employees. Of these, 59 Aboriginal staff, or almost 11% were in leadership roles across government.

The strategy to increase Aboriginal employment in the VPS is complemented by efforts to put Aboriginal voices at the centre of strategy and policy leadership. In 2018, 85 Aboriginal people were on Victorian Government boards, which equates to around 1.21% of all board appointments.

Aboriginal leadership and staffing across the VPS in 2018

Aboriginal staff in the VPS


Aboriginal staff as a proportion of the VPS


Aboriginal staff in leadership roles in the VPS

59 (10.7% of all Aboriginal VPS staff)

Aboriginal people on government boards

85 (1.2%)

Supporting Aboriginal employment in the public and community sector

The Victorian Government is committed to investing in and supporting Aboriginal staff in the public and community sector.

The Aboriginal Future Leaders Program seeks to support and maximise Aboriginal professional development as key to realising the public and Aboriginal community sector’s Aboriginal leadership talent and potential. The Program, delivered for the first time in 2018, provided individual and group coaching sessions tailored to emerging Aboriginal community and public sector leaders.

Goal 10: Aboriginal income potential is realised

10.1 Increase Victoria’s Aboriginal gross income and decrease the opportunity cost of Aboriginal income inequality


  • 10.1.1 Victoria’s Aboriginal income as sum of all income earned by Aboriginal workers
  • 10.1.2 Opportunity cost: Aboriginal gross income at parity minus actual

Aboriginal people, organisations and businesses are making valuable contributions to Victoria’s diverse economy, with an aggregate income of approximately $750 million per year. The economic impact of achieving workforce and income parity would mean the entry of an additional 3,600 Aboriginal workers into the workforce. This has the potential to grow Victoria’s Aboriginal income by approximately $360 million per annum.

While workforce participation rates have increased over the last 10 years, there remains a considerable pay gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians. On average, according to the 2016 census, Aboriginal Victorians earn around 16 cents less per dollar than non-Aboriginal Victorians.

This pay gap is potentially influenced by a multitude of factors including family responsibilities, differences in employment by occupation and industry, discriminatory employment practices and gender inequality.

Support for Aboriginal workers and Aboriginal businesses holds enormous promise for the wider economy and is a fundamental step in realising the significant creative and financial potential of Aboriginal Victoria. In addition to benefiting the economy, realising Aboriginal income potential can also lead to better outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians in other domains including health and wellbeing and family life.

Action the Victorian Government is taking

The Victorian Government is making several significant investments to support First Nations' economic aspirations and strengthen the economic position of Aboriginal communities.

The Victorian Government has committed to several employment targets across a range of sectors, including major infrastructure projects, the Victorian Public Service, and through indirect procurement opportunities. Some of these include:

  • Level Crossing Removal Projects have a 2.5%Aboriginal labour hours target.
  • Melbourne Metro Tunnel Project sets a 2.5%Aboriginal employment target.
  • Barring Djinang adopts a 2% Aboriginal employment target for the Victorian Public Service.
  • The Social Procurement Framework and procurement target under Tharamba Bugheen encourages government buyers to support Aboriginal businesses, which in turn supports the Aboriginal workforce as Aboriginal businesses are more likely to employ Aboriginal people.

The Victorian Government is working with Aboriginal Housing Victoria to deliver the HomesVic Aboriginal Victorians Shared Equity Program. The extension of this program will make home ownership more affordable for 40 eligible Aboriginal Victorians. Aboriginal Housing Victoria have a vital role in promoting the scheme and assisting Aboriginal Victorians with the application process.

Tharamba Bugheen: Victorian Aboriginal Business Strategy 2017-2027 is the Victorian Government’s initiative to provide targeted support to the Aboriginal business sector.

The strategy forms part of a wider Victorian Aboriginal Economic Strategy that emphasises economic participation and development as a vital foundation for Aboriginal self-determination.

Through Tharamba Bugheen, Aboriginal businesses are being supported to reach their potential with a range of services, programs and grants. The Victorian Government is working closely with key service delivery partners, such as Kinaway Chamber of Commerce Ltd and LaunchVic grant recipients, to make sure that Aboriginal businesses have access to support and advice that meets their needs. There is also a strong focus on improving the visibility and networks of Aboriginal businesses and strengthening entrepreneurial culture and business expertise.

The Aboriginal Economic Broker Grants Program has funded 5 organisations to employ an Aboriginal Economic Broker to work within their organisations to support Aboriginal economic development in their community.

Guided by the self-determination principles, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions will soon commence work to develop a new Aboriginal economic partnership entity that will advise government on relevant policy and program development. The future partnership entity will oversee the review of Tharamba Bugheen and the current Victorian Aboriginal Economic Strategy 2013-2020, as well as work with government to develop a new Victorian Aboriginal Economic Strategy as of 2020-21.