There is a long road ahead for Australia--and indeed the world--to rebuild and recover from the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
With the recent announcement of the Federal Budget, it appears not-for-profit organisations such as SSI will have to step-up and take the lead in supporting newcomers and those on temporary visas to recover from the economic and social fallout of the pandemic.
It is undeniable that there are challenging times ahead, but I know that as a community we will build back better. I see this all the time, demonstrated by the people we serve; through hardship grows innovation, connection, and strength.
We also cannot forget that outside of Australia there are still thousands of displaced individuals who are in desperate need of a safe haven, away from war and persecution. The spread of COVID-19 only adds to their challenges.
Consequently, the announcement of government cuts to the humanitarian intake, combined with reduced support for asylum seekers living in our communities, was deeply disappointing.
Despite this, I was heartened to hear the government’s commitment to review intake numbers annually.
We are an organisation that prides ourselves on successful integration and settlement outcomes. No matter what, we will do our utmost to continue to ensure new Australians feel welcomed and supported, and that when the humanitarian cap is returned to pre-pandemic levels, we have laid the foundations for recovery in place to support the government.
One program that has exemplified the value of ‘welcome’ in successful settlement is the Welcome2Sydney (W2S) initiative, which was recently awarded the 2020 Zest Award for "Outstanding Project Promoting Social Cohesion and Community Harmony".
W2S is an SSI, project, supported by the City of Parramatta. It connects volunteers and established Sydney residents, with newly arrived families and individuals from refugee backgrounds, to engage in fun group activities that increase participant's belonging and understanding of their new home.
Many of SSI's innovative programs, such as Welcome2Sydney, are co-designed in partnership with local business, local government or other local community-based organisations.
Together with SSI, these partners form the cornerstones of strengthening and contributing to settlement and integration and that in turn provides a foundation for outcomes in employment, health, education, and language acquisition.
This year has brought many unprecedented challenges. It has marked a fundamental shift in the way the world interacts with each other and magnified many of the challenges faced by the communities we support.
At the same time, this year brings me to acknowledge how far SSI has come in our mission to support newcomers and vulnerable members of society and our resilience in the face of change, as we approach 20 years since SSI’s inception. Next month we will be celebrating this milestone with several digital activities including a series of 20 client and staff stories that reflect our journey.
Although it comes at a challenging time, our 20th anniversary reminds me of the incredible strength of our community, and the immense value in the work we do.
I know that together we will make it through this period and build back better.