Help wanted: Government assistance for SMEs

So you have a great idea for a business venture. You've conducted market research, asked for advice, assessed your skills and abilities, and perhaps even applied for a business name.

But before you make the jump, it may be worthwhile taking a look at the vast range of support, advice and even financial assistance available from federal and state governments for startups and small business owners.

  • Small Business Support Line
  • Incubators
  • Financial assistance
  • Professional services
  • Coaching, mentoring and reviews
  • Overseas trading
  • Climate change and environment

Small Business Support Line

If you're completely new to the small business world and have very little idea where to start, try contacting the Small Business Support Line here. The toll-free national number can provide you with a range of information, referral services and advice on running your own business.

Alternatively, you can use their online chat  option, which can be useful for SME owners who are technology proficient but do not have a strong command of English.


Business incubators are programs that offer information, services and facilities for business startups. Some examples might be cheap office space, mentoring programs, training, shared services and networking events. However, unlike other support programs, incubators do not take on all businesses. Acceptance can depend on a variety of factors, the most important being a viable business plan.

Financial assistance

If you do not have the funds to start a business or support yourself during unprofitable times, the government can provide a number of low interest loans, rebates, venture capital, income support, and even emergency assistance. The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme for instance, can provide job seekers with an income, support and mentoring for up to a year while running a new business. For more information, visit the's grant finder website.

Professional services

Unfortunately, accountants, lawyers and other professional service providers don't come cheap. If you don't have the money to spend on these services, there are a few government programs that can alleviate some of your costs.

The ATO offers a financial assistance visit program, which provides free consultation with tax officers on your tax, superannuation and record keeping obligations.

Coaching, mentoring and reviews

You've probably received no end of advice from well-meaning family and friends on how to start and run your business, but it may also be a good idea to some get tips and advice from other experienced business owners.

Commercialisation Australia offers a volunteer mentoring program that helps to link volunteer business mentors with small business owners. Mentors usually come from backgrounds in small business, investment and specific fields of expertise, or have held leadership roles in industry.

Overseas trading

If your business has plans to engage in overseas import and export activity, there are a number of government programs available to assist. The Trade Commission's Export Market Development Grants scheme can provide grants and marketing reimbursements for companies engaged in export trade.

To be eligible, companies must have an income of under $50 million, and should generally be promoting Australian-based products or services. Individual state and territory governments will also offer their own grants, incentives and assistance programs.

Climate change and environment

Whether your business is subject to environmental regulation or you simply wish to get involved, there are a huge range of state and federal assistance programs for climate change and environmental initiatives.

For instance, the Department of Agriculture offers the Climate Change Adjustment Program, which provides grants, training and advice to agribusinesses to help manage the impact of climate change.

Alternatively, if your business is involved in environment-related technology such as clean energy, the Department of Energy's Emerging Renewables Program can provide grants for renewable energy projects.

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