Westpac, Many Rivers partnership grows 500 Indigenous businesses

A PARTNERSHIP between Westpac bank and the Many Rivers organisation has helped to establish more than 1000 businesses since 2009 – including 500 Indigenous-owned firms.

Importantly, a recent report by Deloitte Access Economics report found that these businesses had a higher survival rate than the national average, with 75 percent successfully reaching their first year of operation.

The report further cited how the development of the Westpac-Many Rivers businesses reduced the need for access to welfare, while business owners charted increased personal asset growth as these businesses progressed. 

As a result, Westpac has committed a further $2.25 million for Many Rivers’ expansion into new regions, announced by Westpac Business Bank chief executive David Lindberg at the recent Yothu Yindi Foundation’s Garma Festival. 

Many Rivers now operates in 25 locations across the country with an emphasis on regional and remote communities. He said since 2009 Westpac and Many Rivers had partnered to offer microenterprise development support, including access to business loans totalling $5.7 million.

Speaking at the Garma Festival held in the Northern Territory to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, Mr Lindberg said partnership with Many Rivers helped contribute to lasting social and financial outcomes for business owners and their communities.

“At Westpac, we believe backing business is essential for the prosperity and growth of our nation,” Mr Lindberg said. “This must include  supporting the economic participation of people who have traditionally faced barriers to start and grow their businesses. 

“Inclusion is particularly important in regional and remote Australia. We have chosen to partner with Many Rivers because it has made tangible differences to the lives of many people who are now self-employed and creating new jobs for others.

“As we enter our third century in business,” he said, pointing out that Westpac, formerly the Bank of New South Wales, was Australia’s first bank, founded in the 1800s, “we believe we have a role to play in shaping a positive future for Australia. Partnership with organisations like Many Rivers is critical to building sustainable businesses and communities for tomorrow.”

Deloitte Access Economics’ recent report titled ‘Evaluating Many Rivers’ Microenterprise Development Program’ reinforces the powerful, tangible impact the program is having on local communities. Led by Professor Ian Harper, the report found that each new Many Rivers business has a higher survival rate than the national average for similar businesses.

Other key findings included a decrease in the number of clients accessing welfare and an increase in the number of clients with personal assets over $50,000 from 23 percent to 38 percent.

Many Rivers CEO and managing director, John Burn said real economic participation is vital to overcoming the structural disadvantages faced by many Australians.

“In many of the places that Many Rivers works there are limited job opportunities. Therefore, enterprise is critical to providing people with a trajectory out of disadvantage,” Mr Burn said.

“Many Rivers provides multi-year, practical business support and encouragement. We support our clients to start in business, stay in business and thrive in business. The first measure of success is when a client generates their first income and the long-term measures are the economic and social benefits that arise when people feel valued and are supporting their families and communities.

“Access to finance and other banking products is essential to enabling our clients to establish and grow their businesses. We are delighted to continue our partnership with Westpac,” Mr Burn said.



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