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05 May 2016


From the CEO – Innovative solutions for important issues

Recently, I had the honour of representing SSI at the committee of the International Metropolis Conference, where I heard from numerous colleagues in Europe, the UK and the US about how they are approaching the challenges of the massive movement of people across their borders.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis.

What struck me is that even in a country such as Turkey, where Syrian refugees now account for 3–4% of the total population, people are still focusing on problem-solving and solutions. The approach of both refugees and their hosts is one of finding a solution to a very dire situation.

In Australia, we certainly don’t have these critical numbers or imperatives but we are able to find innovative solutions to other longstanding issues, such as employment.

Employment is a critical area that ensures people can live a life of dignity with a sense of achievement. Over the past month, SSI has been awarded two new programs in this area that will be of great benefit to their participants and the broader community.

Innovation is at the heart of the first new service – a youth mentoring project that will support young refugees and migrants to retain their jobs. Under this project, SSI will link volunteer mentors with young workers to improve their confidence and understanding of workplace culture.

SSI will also support employers to expand their understanding of cultural issues and to help them engage and retain young migrants and refugees in their workforces. We’ve just recruited a coordinator for this project and are in the process of developing referral pathways, job descriptions and training for mentors.

SSI is already receiving client referrals for the second new program, ParentsNext, which operates in the Bankstown area. The shared partnership with Metro Assist prepares parents with children under six to return to or enter the workforce. So far, the majority of clients have been women, of which 50 per cent are single mothers.

Both new programs will improve the employment outcomes of two vulnerable groups in our community, and I look forward to updating you as the initiatives get up and running.

Something else new and exciting that SSI is working on is the National Multicultural Women’s Conference, which will take place from 3–4 November at the ParkRoyal Parramatta.

SSI and the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) will host the conference, which aims to support women’s economic independence, leadership and safety by providing a high-profile platform to highlight innovative strategies, services, programs and models for supporting and empowering migrant and refugee women.

At this year’s inaugural conference, we’ll cover important themes including family violence; homelessness and housing; child marriage; health and wellbeing; mental health; education; leadership; and employment and enterprise.

Looking ahead, next month I’ll be attending a UNHCR-hosted NGO consultation focused on refugee youth. I’m pleased to be coordinating a workshop on youth and integration that will involve young people from around the world to identify ways we can better assist young people during the settlement process.

I will also be meeting with UNHCR staff to report back on the experiences of our clients, along with representatives from other resettlement countries to discuss and learn from each other’s practices.

This will be a good opportunity to share the success SSI has found with its solutions-focused approach, while also learning about what is working in other countries. I look forward to updating you all on my return.

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