The end of the year is hurtling towards us. Like many of you, I’m squeezing in as much as possible between now and the end of this week, when our office will close and I’ll have a fortnight to celebrate with family and reflect on another big year.
We’re all so busy at this time of year that it can be hard to find the head space to pause and reflect on the year that has passed — what we’ve achieved, what we’ve left undone, what has changed in our wider world.
Global displacement continued over the course of the year as civil wars in places like Yemen and Syria drove families from their homelands. Closer to home, we have seen the growing Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, while conditions for refugees in Manus Island have deteriorated following the closure of the offshore refugee processing centre.
In reflecting on the year that has passed, it can be difficult not to dwell on the families who are still in exile from their homelands or people like the Rohingya, who remain trapped in a precarious limbo of statelessness.
But we also have much to be thankful for — and it’s those things that my mind comes back to when I’m tempted to believe the world is a darker place at the end of 2017 than it was at the start.
On a professional level, there’s a lot to be thankful for. In 2017, SSI won many new contracts to deliver programs that will expand our work with individuals and families who are at a point in their lives when they’re experiencing a vulnerability.
On a personal level, I’m thankful for the successes the year has brought me. When my colleague nominated me for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, the idea of being selected as a state finalist seemed way outside the realm of possibilities — let alone that I would be named the 2017 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year.
I’m incredibly grateful for the career and personal growth trajectory that has taken me from the daughter of migrants, growing up in Sydney’s western suburbs, to being selected among my peers from across the country for national recognition that will give me a platform to highlight the issues faced by newly arrived communities.
As a member of the wider Australian community, I’m thankful that we are finishing 2017 in a country where all people now have the right to marry the person they love, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
The evening after the ‘yes’ result was announced, as I watched footage of Sydneysiders celebrating the win in Prince Alfred Park, embracing each other and dancing to John Paul Young’s Love is in the Air, it was hard to feel anything but optimistic for our shared future.
As the year wraps up, I encourage you too to dwell on those bright spots from across 2017. For all the lows, the year has brought with it many highs. It is those that I feel truly thankful for.
While this time of year is replete with happy gatherings of friends and family, it’s worth remembering that not everyone is fortunate to have their loved ones nearby. Some people are separated from family by war. Others, for one reason or another, lack the critical social support systems that many of us take for granted.
During the festive season, I encourage you to reach out to these neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances. Invite them to share a meal or to pop in for a cup of tea. Small acts of kindness can have a big impact on people, especially those who are feeling lonely or isolated.
Have a safe and happy holiday season.
CEO Violet Roumeliotis