SSI is focused on remaining sustainable through the diversification of our revenue streams, developing partnerships with organisations and individuals outside our traditional sectors, and developing innovative solutions and programs that we can commoditise.
Growth through merger
Strengthening local and national strategic alliances is something SSI sees as a pathway to growth and sustainability. In April 2018, the board of Access formally approached SSI to enter into discussions with SSI with a view to a merger. Prior to this, SSI and Access had a collaborative relationship and were in discussions to explore new opportunities on the east coast.
SSI operates in a non-predatory way and did not have any strategic intent on entering the Queensland market, but we recognised in this approach an opportunity to strengthen both our sector and organisation, and so progressed to due diligence.
Our merger in December 2018 has created value for all stakeholders. While our integration is still a work in progress (see page 12), we are creating considerable value through annual cost synergies and procurement efficiencies. We have a stronger balance sheet and cash flow, and increased revenue with greater flexibility to invest in future growth.
Importantly, this merger also enables us to capitalise on each organisation’s unique strengths to become a sector and market leader on Australia’s east coast.
SSI in Victoria
This marked SSI’s first full year operating in Victoria, where a key program was the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS). This is a new national program for SSI and, in September 2018, SSI began taking referrals for those in the Australian community wanting to apply for protection visas (or any visa type for minors under the guardianship of the minister). Through our subcontracted service providers, people accessed professional immigration advice services, including advice on the merits of their cases and application guidance.
Once the implementation phase for the IAAAS was completed early in 2019, one of SSI’s key focus areas was promoting IAAAS so that the community was aware of SSI as the new national referral pathway.
IAAAS is quite different from other services SSI has delivered and has offered some unique challenges, but we recognise it is a vital service to many in our community who fear returning to their country of origin and need protection in Australia.
Another key achievement for the Victorian office during the year was bringing to the state the Victorian Liveable Diversity Summit in November 2018. Experts in Australia for the International Metropolis Conference (see page 26) shared best practice on diversity with senior Victorian counterparts in public policy, research and civil society.
Melbourne is often highlighted as one of the planet’s most diverse cities, while also consistently being named one of its most liveable. Through a series of study tours, participants examined the Victorian model of liveable diversity, examining both the good practices and challenges in local governments, communities and industries. In each case study site, international academics, local policy makers, civil society and politicians interacted with their Victorian counterparts to compare experiences, consider common challenges, develop best practices and partnerships. At the conclusion of the tours, 300 participants convened for a summit to discuss and reflect on the issues they observed.
Partnerships are a cornerstone of SSI’s existence and without them we would not be in a position to actualise our vision. The Liveable Diversity Summit was only possible due to our strong partnership with Monash University and collaboration and support from the Victorian government, Ballarat Regional Multicultural Centre, City of Hume, City of Dandenong, Australian Multicultural Foundation and the Immigration Museum.
Ignite® takes off
SSI’s self-funded Ignite ® Small Business Start-ups program had tremendous local and international success in 2018-19. During the year, we partnered with UTS and a philanthropist to scale up Ignite ® in Sydney. Under this expansion, we will support 40 entrepreneurs from refugee backgrounds to launch businesses in western Sydney over the next two years. This demonstrates the importance of our partnerships and the very real impact they have on the lives of the people we support.
Ignite ® and refugee entrepreneurship have both been topics for SSI’s international conference participation in recent years, sparking interest from many of our global counterparts. During 2018-19, we sold the Canadian government a two-year license to run Ignite ® in Vancouver. Our Ignite ® Global Manager, Dina Petrakis, spent close to six months in Vancouver helping to set up the Ignite ® program, which had established seven businesses by the end of the financial year.
Since 2013, Ignite ® has supported the creation of 160 businesses in Australia, including 34 in 2018-19 alone. We are currently in talks with other organisations in Canada and the UK that are interested in this success rate.
Diversifying revenue streams
Developing new revenue streams enables SSI to grow our value-added, self-funded programs. A core focus of SSI’s Partnerships and Fundraising function is acquiring sources of non-government funding in order to position our organisation for sustainable growth. These channels include corporate funding as well as community and individual giving.
In 2018-19, our partnerships with corporate stakeholders helped further widen SSI’s reach and provide innovative solutions and initiatives for the social and economic participation of our clients. Partnerships with community-minded organisations such as Allianz Australia and AMP enabled us to invest in pathways to education and employment for refugees.
During the year, many of our corporate partners also made in-kind investments to support the needs of our client groups. For example, the Commonwealth Bank developed financial literacy toolkits to help newly arrived refugees avoid pitfalls. White Pages Australia helped us to link more than 250 refugee families with 85 local businesses in order to build connections to their new area.
SSI shares culturally responsive knowledge
One of SSI’s newer offerings is a training program grounded in our extensive experience as a service provider working with CALD communities. SSI Training supports organisations to work with CALD communities and create more culturally responsive and inclusive workplaces. SSI Training has developed cultural competency training modules that it now delivers to external organisations for a fee. Workshops cover aspects of working with diversity in areas including foster care, disability, young people, volunteering, housing, and children and family.
In 2018-19, we delivered training to more than 2,700 people from over 350 organisations across NSW, building their capacity to be more culturally responsive and inclusive in their service delivery and in their workplace.
During the year, we also launched Our Voice to build the capacity of mainstream disability services. A group of 16 people with lived experience of disability from CALD backgrounds received training and support to become lived experience educators. They have delivered learning activities that shed light on the issues they face in accessing services (see page 25).