Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow was the keynote speaker at the SSI Annual General Meeting held today at the SSI offices in Bankstown, which was attended by more than 80 people.
The morning session began with an insightful and sobering address by Mr Santow, followed by a Q&A with the audience that focused on the human rights challenges posed by forced displacement and terrorism.
Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow with SSI Leadership team and Board members at the 2017 AGM
“The scale and complexity of these issues is at times overwhelming, and there are no ‘magic bullet’ solution,” Mr Santow said. “But no matter how complex the problem, international human rights law provides critical guidance on the basic principles that should underpin our response.
“These principles are not so complex: they are fundamental, easily-recognisable values that provide a basic foundation for policy-making. Indeed, they have much in common with the values that inform SSI’s own work – justice, diversity, respect, compassion and ethics.”
The Q&A was followed by the inaugural SSI Community Appreciation Awards, which recognise people whose actions have made a profound and sustained positive impact on the lives of the communities SSI works with.
Representing City of Canterbury Bankstown Mayor Karl Asfour, Councillor Bilal El-Hayak presented the awards to its recipients, including Marg Bailey, who introduced SSI to the Bush Rangers at Middle Head National Park and developed the Bush Regeneration program, and June Simpson, a retired specialist school counselor who has been the longers serving volunteer with SSI at nearly four years.
After a morning tea, the formal AGM proceedings highlighted the sustained growth and diversification experienced by the organisation in all aspects over the financial year 2016-2017, as well as the outstanding outcomes achieved as a result.
In her first report as SSI Chair, Elizabeth Shaw highlighted some of the key outcomes achieved over the last financial year, such as winning two of the 11 newly defined Humanitarian Settlement Program contract regions.
“This contract marks an exciting expansion for SSI’s refugee support services program now extending beyond the Sydney region to cover the entire northern portion of the state, including the new settlement location of Armidale.”
Ms Shaw also outlined the main pillars of the new 2017-2020 strategic plan, which upholds a vision of continuity and commitment to the values that have guided SSI’s growth until now.
“It’s great to see that our vision has not been altered, because this demonstrates that we have always been on task and fundamentally understood our role and purpose,” Ms Shaw said.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis highlighted the sense of inclusiveness and innovation driving SSI’s practices and policies, which have resulted in a leading organisation now representing a wide range of communities from refugees to people with disability, to long-term job seekers, to children in foster care.
“SSI puts people first. We look beyond the immediate needs of individuals and communities and invest in their aspirations,” Ms Roumeliotis said.
“This people-first approach has inevitably led to strong outcomes represented by more than 19,000 clients came through our doors to receive support, over 10,000 refugees who received direct settlement support and 2,000 households who secured long-term housing with us in 2016-17.”
Two new directors– Frank Zheng and Sophie Ray– were welcomed to the SSI Board, while long-term director Lou Bacchiella stepped down, joining Clement Meru who had done so earlier this year.