Harmony Day is about inclusivity, respect and belonging. It was a day that SSI marked in March with a celebration as part of an initiative from Australia’s business sector that will help many refugees to build a sense of belonging in Australia.
The Friendly Nation Initiative (FNI) is a business-led strategy that seeks to increase employment, mentoring, training and internship opportunities for refugees and humanitarian migrants. It builds partnerships between corporate Australia and leaders in the settlement space like SSI, with the aim of linking business needs with refugee skills.
Finding employment helps refugees to become economically independent, forge links in the broader community and, ultimately, feel at home in Australia – something close to the heart of Harmony Day, an annual celebration designed to foster a sense of belonging for all.
At the event on Tuesday, attendees enjoyed the African beats and dancing of Karifi Ensemble, along with a diverse spread of canapés from SSI Catering – a social enterprise that gives job seekers work experience in a commercial kitchen environment.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said in addition to supporting refugees through its own employment initiatives, SSI was also working with employers as part of FNI to help new arrivals find stable and meaningful employment.
"Research and SSI’s anecdotal experience tells us that although the motivation to work is high among refugees who settle in Australia, this does not necessarily lead to employment. They face unique barriers to finding employment, including a lack of local work experience and difficulty getting prior qualifications recognised," she said.
"There is huge untapped potential within the refugee community, which is why it is so wonderful to see businesses in NSW taking a leading role in creating employment opportunities for some of the newest members of our society. This has the potential to change so many lives for the better."
Ms Roumeliotis said hiring refugees also had benefits for employers as it added to the diversity of their workplaces.
"Diversity helps us to value new perspectives; to celebrate our differences and share what we have in common," she said.
"At SSI, diversity is one of our greatest strengths. We employ more than 150 bilingual and bicultural workers who speak 83 languages between them. That diversity helps us to work more collaboratively, it leads to more innovative outcomes and solutions, and makes us stronger as an organisation."
Ms Roumeliotis said she hoped more employers would take the lead from those businesses involved with FNI and open up employment opportunities for some of Australia’s newest community members.