The holiday season at SSI always brings to the fore the warmth and compassion that exists within our community. In contrast to the commercialism often intertwined with the gift-giving season are the actions of folk like the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and Ashfield Public School P&C ― just two of the many groups who, in recent weeks, have delivered gifts for the individuals and families SSI supports.
Many of the people we work with are far from their native countries, friends and family ― an absence that is particularly acute at a time of year when so many of us are reuniting and connecting with loved ones.
These gifts from everyday Australians are a reminder for vulnerable individuals that someone out there in the wider community is thinking of them over the holidays.
The holiday season is also a time to reflect on our challenges and achievements from the year. In 2018, SSI rolled out select services and initiatives in Queensland and Victoria, and launched several new offices in regional NSW. One particular success story is our office in the new settlement region of Armidale ― now a prime case study for successful regional refugee settlement.
The federal government has recently announced an independent review of employment, settlement and integration outcomes for refugees taking place in the coming months. I look forward to sharing our experience of what has been effective and where there is room for improvement. Lately, there has been a lot of policy talk about regional settlement, and I welcome the opportunity to recommend greater coordination from all levels of government to deliver the best settlement outcomes for refugees.
In 2019, SSI will also be bedding in our merger with Access Community Services, a not-for-profit community organisation based in Queensland. Like us, Access is committed to community support, development and capacity building. Our organisations have had a strong partnership for a number of years, most recently with the rollout of our Ignite Small Business Start Ups initiative across Queensland.
It’s still early days, but I have no doubt that, this time next year, I’ll be reporting to you on the many doors that have opened to us as a result of this collaboration and the numerous benefits to our members, clients and communities.
In the New Year, SSI will officially launch our Melbourne office and, in combination with our merger, this will give our organisation an on-the-ground presence stretching across Australia’s eastern seaboard.
As always, our growth has been undertaken thoughtfully, responsibly and with respect for other services on the ground. We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel or duplicate services. We’re looking for gaps and opportunities to support vulnerable individuals and families.
Our newly released 2017-18 Annual Report shows that, over the course of a single year, SSI staff made a positive difference in the lives of nearly 27,000 people who came through the doors of our four primary offices.
In the same year:
- 4,200+ refugees received early settlement support from SSI
- 300+ volunteers contributed 58,000 hours to support our clients
- 3,900+ people seeking asylum were supported to live in the community
- 9,990+ families connected with their community during our Community Hubs activities
- 30,000+ individuals sessions were held with migrants and refugees through the SSI-led NSW Settlement partnership
- 1,100+ people secured employment with our support
- 100+ entrepreneurs were supported to overcome a vulnerability to establish or expand a business
- 165+ children were cared for each day by our Multicultural Foster Care team
These incredible figures are indicative of the sheer hard work and professionalism of our staff. They also illustrate the benefits of collaborations achieved through partnerships, consortiums, MOUs and other alliances.
Our continued success is thanks to our staff, community, members and partners. As the year draws to a close, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for your support in 2018. This time of year can be stressful on many fronts ― whether it be negotiating family politics, balancing finances or managing long periods of travel ― so please take the time for some self-care, and have a safe and fulfilling holiday season.