From the CEO
SSI’s approach to growth is something in which I have always taken great pride. As CEO, my priority is ensuring our organisation is sustainable — but not at a cost to others.
In pursuing growth, we aimed to safeguard SSI’s funding in a way that would also increase our social impact and strengthen our sector. One way we did this was by forming consortiums with other community organisations and tendering for work, thereby growing the pie of available funding for our peers, as well as ourselves.
In April 2018, Queensland-based Access approached SSI about a possible merger. While we didn’t have an intent to enter the Queensland market, this offer presented an incredible opportunity. Our organisations work with similar communities and apply a clientcentred, values-driven ethos to our work. We already had a strong collaborative relationship with Access, which was licensed to run our Ignite® Small Business Start-ups initiative in Queensland.
After extensive due diligence, our merger became official on December 4, 2018. This non-predatory merger and its successful implementation was both a key challenge and an achievement during the 2018-19 financial year.
Stage one of our integration focused on aligning our corporate services teams (see page 12). Already, we are seeing annual cost synergies, procurement efficiencies and a stronger balance sheet and cash flow (see page 30). We are about to embark on stage two of this integration, which will further reduce our internal duplication and increase collaboration. In the long-term, we intend to maintain local service delivery in order to capitalise on the unique strengths of each organisation and leverage opportunities to further expand our social enterprises.
Working as one, we can strengthen our position to support service growth in Queensland, NSW and Victoria — particularly in an environment of growing demands and shrinking resources in the community sector. The collaboration and joining of services and resources will provide better outcomes for clients, funding partners and key stakeholders.
During the financial year, SSI completed the appointment of its new Executive team. We have also undertaken extensive work to ensure our organisation is aligned with this new structure. This has created better accountability and, ultimately, ensured we are positioned for the future.
Having this leadership bench strength has enabled me to increase my focus on political engagement and putting SSI on the map nationally and internationally. I’ve been able to positively influence social justice policies in Australia and around the world. In April, for example, I participated in a UNHCR working group that informed the UN refugee body’s three-year strategy on resettlement and complementary pathways (see page 26).
Greater international engagement has also lifted the profile of SSI initiatives like Ignite®. After several positive engagements with the Canadian government, Ignite® has now been licensed and implemented in Vancouver (see page 21). It is humbling to think that an initiative we developed and funded from scratch is now changing lives on the other side of the world. I am particularly grateful to Ignite®’s Global Manager Dina Petrakis, who spent close to six months in Canada to get this initiative up and running.
Since the conclusion of the financial year, my focus has been the implementation of our new 2023 Master Plan (see page 32). As part of an integrated approach to strategy development, SSI Executive General Manager Peter Zographakis is also leading a number of organisation-wide strategies to better position SSI in areas including employment, disability and regional settlement. Peter’s team will continue to pursue new growth opportunities via the creation and addition of innovative revenue-generating social businesses and programs such as the commercialisation of our unique Diversity Training program (see page 23) and expansion of Ignite®.
Our changing external landscape influences this direction. For example, increasingly we are seeing regional settlement presented as the answer to Australia’s congested cities and a must-have in any conversation on population planning. SSI is well positioned to make a contribution to future regional migration, building on our success in Armidale (see page 17) and the rejuvenation of the Coffs Harbour area. Regional settlement is something we know we do well, so we are prioritising this as a business strategy and looking at a wide range of opportunities for migrants to successfully settle in regional areas.
One of my personal highlights from FY2018-19 was SSI’s decision to embark on a journey of reconciliation. During the year, we began developing our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), and we anticipate submitting this plan during FY2019-20. I believe that growing our engagement with, and understanding of, Australia’s First Nations cultures is a shared privilege. By connecting with people from different walks of life, we have the opportunity to see that there are no gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities — just people, coming together to respect, accept and trust each other.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge our Chair Elisabeth for her efforts this year and thank her for the important role she has played in SSI’s success in FY2018-19.
When I reflect on the year that has passed, the things of which I am most proud are those where our values shine through, whether it is embracing diversity in all forms through the development of our RAP, demonstrating our commitment to ethics through a non-predatory merger, or progressing social justice issues to improve the lives of the communities we serve. With these values at our heart, I am confident of another dynamic year ahead for SSI and Access.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis