Important milestones such as SSI’s 20th anniversary motivate me to pause from the present and reflect. Looking back over the past 20 years, I cannot help but be amazed at how SSI has both evolved as an organisation and solidified our core mission and values since our founding in early 2000.
SSI was launched with a Humanitarian Settlement Services contract in February 2000 – commencing operations on August 1, 2001 from a small building in Holden Street, Ashfield.
Back then, we were called the NSW Migrant Resource Centres Association. We employed 23 people and were focused on early settlement and multicultural Australia in the Sydney area.
Fast forward to today, we have expanded to be in the top 1% of Australian charities (as listed by the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission in 2018) – having expanded our workforce to over 800 employees and broadened the scope of services we provide, and the states we have a footprint in.
This period of growth has taught me the immense value in collaboration between communities, organisations, sectors, and governments at all levels. I am deeply proud of initiatives such as the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP), which brings together the grassroots expertise of 21 organisations to deliver settlement services under the Department of Home Affairs’ Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) program.
Initiatives such as the NSP work as an opportunity for organisations with a long and proud history in service delivery to migrants, refugees, and humanitarian entrants, to work collaboratively to address collective aims and objectives.
Despite our growth, SSI’s focus on supporting newly arrived refugees and those seeking asylum to settle in Australia and reach their goals and full potential has been unwavering.
We have expanded on the supports we provide, developing new innovative programs and thought leadership initiatives, and responded quickly to local national and international crisis, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In late 2018, SSI grew substantially, when Access Community Services, one of Australia’s leaders in multicultural support services based in Queensland, became a subsidiary of SSI.
This was a huge milestone in our history. Working as one organisation, Access and SSI came together to strengthen our position and support service growth around the country and collaborate to provide better outcomes for clients, funding partners and key stakeholders.
At the same time, I believe that one of SSI’s greatest successes as an organisation has been the diversification of the support we provide.
The experience and insights created, relationships SSI has gained over the past 20 years, has enabled us to expand our services into other areas including foster care, disability, and the support of LGBTQIA+ Australians and First Nations communities.
Just this year, SSI began our delivery of the Local Area Coordinator (LAC) services for the NDIS to over 16,000 people living in Sydney and South West Sydney areas, marking a huge step forward for the organisation.
We also recently expanded our Multicultural Foster Care Program (MFCP) into Victoria, an exciting step for such an innovative program that has broadened SSI’s impact since it was launched in NSW in 2013. The MFCP approaches out-of- home care in the ‘SSI way,’ utilising our cultural expertise to ensure children are supported to learn about and maintain a connection to their ethnic background, religion, and language, to achieve better outcomes
This has demonstrated how culturally informed and diverse organisations like SSI can add value and voice to wide ranging services. In partnership with community and clients we bring a unique approach to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) – and non-CALD communities, through bespoke case management models and an expansive community mindset.
Despite all this growth and change, I am proud to say that SSI’s core values, client focus, and mission has remained consistent.
We continue to be a client-focused organisation that provides individualised services to support people and communities to reach their full potential. Our work and strategies are focused on walking alongside our clients and communities, giving them agency and voice to ensure that they live the life that they want to live.
And this vision would not be possible without our staff, who’s dedication, community connection and expertise, has, and always will be, the bedrock of the work SSI and Access does.
In fact, SSI’s entire identity is absolutely founded through people – the people we are comprised of, the people we support, and the stakeholders and communities we work with. No matter the circumstance, our success is built up from mutual, receptive relationships, that are focused on building capacity and power together.
We will carry this approach into the coming 20 years, where I aspire for SSI to spread our vision and organisation across the country; creating an impact in all states and territories.
We will also strive to have impact internationally through thought leadership and social justice policies. In what can be predicted as the turbulent years to come, we will do our best to ensure that the voices and needs of the globe’s most vulnerable are heard, represented, and included in international discourse.
As we approach the conclusion of our 20th year it is clear now more than ever, we need robust social supports. The pandemic has illustrated that locally, nationally, and globally, we are only as strong as our most vulnerable community member.
SSI’s mission is centred around this adage, and we have held and practised this principle well before it was highlighted by the current crisis. This year has been immensely difficult for SSI and the communities we support.
Despite this, the challenges we have faced have solidified our resilience and our ability to adapt and be innovative.
Reflecting on our history, has reminded me of the storms we have weathered over the past two decades, and the support and hard work of SSI staff, that have kept our vision alive.
I am proud to lead an organisation like SSI and work alongside a group of compassionate, driven, and dedicated people.
Looking ahead to the future, our vision remains the same, and our passion keeps us moving. To you, our supporters, I want to say thank you, I hope you will follow along as we continue to advocate and support communities over the next 20 years.