Corporates must get serious about Indigenous excellence: Ann Sherry

National Australia Bank

Australian corporates all can, should, and need to do better when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, NAB Non-Executive Director, Ann Sherry said today.

Speaking at the Leadership Institute’s Indigenous Leadership Summit, Ms Sherry said Corporate Australia needed to accelerate its pace of change in supporting Indigenous leadership to help build a reconciled and united Australia.

Corporate Australia needs to do more, rather than say more, she said.

Ms Sherry has worked closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for more than 20 years. She is a board member of the Cape York Partnership and Jawun, and is co-Chair of NAB’s Indigenous Advisory Group.

She told the audience she had seen first-hand the outcomes achieved when organisations and governments supported self-determination, and what happened when they didn’t.

All corporates needed to look internally and genuinely ask themselves how they could do better, she said.

When it came to creating positive cultural change at NAB, Ms Sherry identified three key areas where NAB was trying to do better: backing Indigenous leaders within the organisation; supporting Indigenous customers; and investing in Indigenous business.


We need to look internally, among our 32,000 strong workforce for the Indigenous leaders who are breaking boundaries every day and back them 100 per cent, Ms Sherry said.

In order for this to happen, we need all employees to have an understanding of the Aboriginal and Australian history, and to value the perspectives and skills that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bring, she said.


NAB’s dedicated Indigenous Customer Service Line launched in 2019, had been a customer experience success story, with the team taking 3,000 calls from customers last financial year, Ms Sherry said. The bank has also identified a raft of other changes to improve Indigenous customer experiences.

Supporting Indigenous businesses

Ms Sherry also gave those attending a glimpse into projects in the works to further NAB’s investment in the Indigenous businesses. NAB’s Group Strategy Refresh, which pinpoints five key areas where NAB wants to lead within the next three years, identified Indigenous business as a sector for focus and investment.

In late 2021, NAB held its first Indigenous Business Roundtable to bring the voice of Indigenous businesspeople and community leaders into NAB to advise on the challenges they experience, and how NAB could further assist indigenous small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The roundtable attendees concluded that a further commitment from NAB to partner and support businesses through their growth cycle and removing barriers to access financial services for the start-up stage was needed.

NAB is now recruiting Specialised Bankers who understand the Indigenous business sector and who have a high level of cultural capability.

The time is right for NAB and other corporates to play a role in supporting Indigenous Australians in whatever way they can, Ms Sherry said.

“We all can, should, and need to do better”, she said.

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