Social enterprises working to tackle employment barriers and support more Australians into work are set to accelerate their growth and impact with new funding from Australia’s leading philanthropic foundations.
Fourteen organisations from around Australia will receive grant funding totalling more than $4.7 million as part of the pioneering Work Integration Social Enterprise (WISE) Grant program managed by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation as part of an innovative collaboration.
The successful enterprises were selected for their work in tackling complex barriers to work with groups including young people, women experiencing disadvantage, refugees and asylum seekers, First Nations people and people living with disability or mental health challenges.
The WISE grants are a Giving Account of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation supported by a coalition of philanthropic foundations including, English Family Foundation, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Macquarie Group, Minderoo Foundation, Paul Ramsay Foundation, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and Westpac Foundation. The external advisor has been legal firm MinterEllison.
These foundations have united to share their resources and knowledge to create a more effective and streamlined approach to supporting earlier stage WISE initiatives.
Each of the 14 recipient organisations will receive grants of up to $500,000 over two years.
Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation CEO Dr Catherine Brown said the grant was an opportunity to address the specific challenges facing Work Integration Social Enterprises, backing them to grow their impact and support more people to thrive and provide funding to build robust business models.
“Work Integration Social Enterprises are leading the charge on addressing Australia’s pressing employment gaps, but we know this vital work comes with significant challenges for business sustainability and growth,” she said. “These grants have been tailored to meet WISE needs, providing support for core operating costs to reinforce these social enterprises’ financial sustainability and social impact.
“Importantly, each of the WISE grant recipients are working closely with their target communities and creating community-driven solutions to the employment challenges they face.
“We’re excited to be collaborating with other philanthropic organisations and the grant recipients towards a shared goal of meaningful employment and economic dignity for everyone in Australia.”
A recent Social Enterprise Australia study revealed that for every $1 million in turnover, social enterprises create nine jobs, which is nine times more than industries like construction.1 They integrate real-world work settings with skill development, training, and education, effectively reducing barriers to work and increasing opportunities for individuals.
Research also indicates that direct impact expenses for WISE – such as wages of support staff, additional training, equipment for accessibility needs and necessary transport for employees – are in the range of 20-30% of the total costs of running the social enterprise.2
1. Social Enterprise Australia’s Business for good: The size and economic contribution of social enterprise in Australia, Impact Tracks, 2022, available at https://www.lmcf.org.au/getmedia/89ace37f-2b60-4d30-9f22-d5051011cf48/2022-Business-for-Good.pdf.aspx
2. Social Traders. 2022. Pace22: Profile of Australia’s Certified Social Enterprises http://bit.ly/3H5BWIo
WISE Grant recipients
EcoCrews (Campbell Page)
EcoCrews™ is a certified Social Enterprise and part of Campbell Page, a not-for-profit organisation that delivers a range of employment, community and commercial services. EcoCrews delivers a range of environmental projects that protect the natural environment and provide habitat regeneration whilst creating employment pathways for young people facing barriers to employment through hands-on experience, skills and accredited training.
EcoCrews General Manager, Tim Cahill said, “EcoCrews is delighted to receive support from Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation through the Work Integrated Social Enterprise (WISE) grant. The grant will go a long way to assisting young and disadvantaged people build skills, gain experience and complete accredited training that will set them up for ongoing employment.
“Their journey will provide significant benefits not only for the individuals but also their local communities.”
The Reconnect Project
The Reconnect Project is on a mission to close Australia’s digital divide and provides a solution to e-waste of mobile devices. Neurodivergent young adults work in our repair shop and learn the technical skills to repair mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices. Social service agencies then distribute the refurbished devices to people in need, giving them the technology to (re)connect with family, friends, education and essential services.
Annette Brodie, Founder & CEO said, "We live in a digital world and our reliance on smart devices means people need access to quality, affordable repair services. The Reconnect Project is championing Australia’s first industry-supported Mobile Device Repair Technician training program and we’re delivering a new generation of device repairers. In Australia, the unemployment rate for autistic people is six times greater than for people without a disability. The neurodivergent young people we work with are enthusiastic, dedicated and have exceptional technology and repair skills. They have so much to offer as employees and by working with mainstream repair services we are showing that employing someone with autism is beneficial for employer and employee alike.”
Bama Facilities Maintenance
Bama Services is a 100% Indigenous-owned small scale civil construction, building, landscaping and facilities, and asset maintenance contractor based in North and Far North Queensland.
As an entity of Cape York Partnership, Bama has secured more than $50M in contracts throughout North Queensland and Cape York since 2010. Bama has an award-winning Support & Wellbeing Program and an Indigenous employment rate of 75%.
Will Grayson, General Manager, Bama Services said, "Our mission is ambitious but crucial: to increase the representation of First Nations women in male-dominated sectors. Bama aims to foster visible female role models and mentors, creating a ripple effect of inspiration and empowerment.
“The generous investment from the WISE Grant will be directed towards skill development and targeted training programs, which will not only enhance stability and wellbeing but also boost the employment readiness of Indigenous women.”
Happy Paws Happy Hearts
Happy Paws Happy Hearts creates positive social connections between isolated Australians and rescue animals, improving quality of life and offering genuine employment pathways for young people living with a disability or mental health challenge. Participants work with a range of animals and help prepare them for adoption, building vocational skills and transition into volunteering, further study, or employment in the animal care industry.
Zoe Black, CEO Happy Paws Happy Hearts said, “We're excited to offer a helping paw to more young people as they enter employment! Social isolation and exclusion create incredibly complex barriers to mainstream work. With our unique twist on animal therapy and dedicated employment pathway supports, we've found a purposeful way to re-engage young people who were feeling disconnected.
“The WISE grant will have a catalytic impact and we will create genuine employment pathways for a further 50 young people across Australia. Our participants will continue their training with rescue animals in a program which is full of play, positivity and tailored learning. This increases their confidence to tackle work experience and find employment within vet care, retail or drone operations – whatever their hearts decide!”
Civik (Hotel Housekeeping)
Civik is a civil construction social enterprise working in regional Australia providing engineering and telecommunications including to meet the demands of the NBN optical fibre upgrade proram across Australia. It provides career pathways and skills development for People in regional and remote communities and support people facing barriers to employment.
Dominiqe Bird, Civik General Manager said, “The support of the WISE Grant Program comes at a critical time for Civik. We’ve been operational for just under six months, and are ready to move into our next stage of growth. By giving us the chance to grow our operations and ensure our employees receive the right support, this funding is the stepping stone to Civik’s long term impact and financial sustainability.”
Nundah Community Enterprises Cooperative
Nundah Community Enterprises Cooperative (NCEC) creates meaningful work for people with cognitive disability and communities facing barriers to employment, including those from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. We achieve this through the operation businesses, run by our members including Cafes, Catering and Parks/Property Maintenance.
Richard Warner, CEO Nundah Community Enterprises said, “This support could not have come at a better time! NCEC has been through a fantastic period of growth recently, but it’s time to review and renew. Anyone who works in the fast-paced world of social enterprise will know it’s hard sometimes to find the space to be able to review and plan for future growth. The grant will give us the resources to do that. It’s also our 25th year in social enterprise, so we are delighted the Co-op is receiving it in this celebration year.”
Seed Foundation Australia
Seed Foundation provides holistic support services to improve the health, wellbeing and employment outcomes of Australia's First Peoples and grows their true potential of by inspiring and promoting self-determination through education, health and employment. Connect n Grow (CnG) employment provides recruitment and on boarding management processes for hospital and health services that host trainees.
Seed Executive Officer, Brett Fragiacomo said, “The WISE grant will enable Seed to engage with more students from regional and remote communities where the need is great. The grant will significantly assist with the additional resources required to engage with young people in regional and remote communities. The grant will also enable our social enterprise to continually expand the number of partnerships with employers and provide the fee-paying services that are the long-term sustainability of Seed.”
Hamlet operates a number of social enterprises in the Tourism and Hospitality industry including a café, catering and condiments business. We exists to empower people who are underrepresented in the workforce. We deliver targeted training and work readiness support to people facing barriers to employment, with a focus on people living with disability. Our program builds the skills and independence of participants, providing reconnection to their community and improving their chances of securing employment outcomes.
Hamlet CEO, Emily Briffa said, “This grant will be a total gamechanger for Hamlet. After 7 years of operations the demand for our program far exceeds our capacity to deliver training, this funding will allow to expand our training capacity and support Tasmanians who are underrepresented in the workforce.”
HoMie (Conscious Creative Limited)
HoMie is a Melbourne-based streetwear clothing brand and social enterprise that uses 100% of its profits towards achieving its mission: supporting young people affected by homelessness or hardship to equip them with the skills, confidence and experiences to be more work-ready and better prepared for their future.
Steph Say, CEO, Homie said, "It’s both incredibly validating for HoMie to have the support of this coalition of Foundations – some of Australia’s biggest, oldest, and most forward-thinking – and an exciting step forward for the sector more broadly. Collective funding has the potential to rapidly accelerate the traditional timeline for scale and sustainability for WISE organisations, who continue to deliver life-changing impact around Australia.
“We’re looking forward to living up to the trust placed in us, scaling our impact, and creating more jobs for young people affected by homelessness or hardship.”
Lively aims to reduce youth unemployment, alleviate social isolation amongst older people, and build a more age-friendly society. To do this, Lively trains and employs young jobseekers to offer support and connection for older community members. Through the process, Lively also builds meaningful relationships that enable older people to share experience, knowledge and skills back with the young.
Anna Donaldson, Founder & CEO Lively said, “This grant has entirely changed the outlook for our organisation over the next few years. Lively was still a fledgling enterprise when COVID hit, and the hangover of financial losses during that period has made it impossible for us to invest in the capability and resourcing that we know Lively needs to move to the next level. This grant has completely transformed that picture, and given us the confidence and runway to take those crucial next steps. We’re so excited about what now feels possible, and about deepening and spreading our impact in the years to come!”
Beautiful Bunch (Merchant Road Events)
The Beautiful Bunch is a social enterprise florist providing life-changing paid training and employment opportunities to young women from refugee backgrounds facing barriers to finding work in Australia. Our training program focuses on foundational floristry, digital skills, and financial literacy. Our purpose is to encourage and support our trainees to build the self-confidence, skills, and social and professional networks that they need to gain meaningful employment, build their financial independence, and pursue their dreams.
Jane Marx, Founder & CEO Beautiful Bunch said, “Rooftop Roses is a bold, ambitious project and we are thrilled that the WISE partner organisations can see the potential in this initiative and have funded the initial research required.
“It has been a dream of ours for some time now to establish a rose growing operation that aligns with our environmental values and our commitment to social change. This grant is a phenomenal opportunity for us to explore the prospect of building something that would be game-changing in our industry, and allow us to scale our impact significantly.
“The grant will be dedicated to funding crucial research into the business opportunity as well as defining a clear roadmap to execution. The WISE partner organisations can clearly see the potential for positive environmental and social impact that this project promises and have enabled us to take that first big step towards bringing Rooftop Roses to life!”
At SisterWorks we believe Work Empowers Women. Over the past 10 years, we supported over 2,500 migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker women from 105 countries to build a better life in Australia through skills training and work opportunities. We are a certified social enterprise that provides work and entrepreneurship opportunities to migrant women in businesses including ethical manufacturing, catering, shopping, workshop and speaker opportunities for socially conscious organisations.
Ifrin Fittock, CEO SisterWorks said, “It is fantastic to receive this WISE grant, the support will allow us to not only increase our capacity and sustainability but we will be able to double the number of employment opportunities for migrant and refugee women in South East Melbourne. Women in this region encounter growing obstacles, and this support will significantly alleviate these challenges.”
Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of Western Australia Aboriginal Corporation*
AACHWA is supporting First Nations art and culture centres across WA, while providing training and employment support to Aboriginal Arts Workers. Not only as they are strong voice for art centres they also empower artists - the artwork created by their members demonstrates the immense knowledge, history, stories and cultural diversity of Aboriginal people in Western Australia.
*Subject to finalisation of grant agreement
Mettle Women Inc
Mettle is a social enterprise that exists to make work force participation safe, accessible and sustainable for those who have experienced domestic & family violence. Our national gift delivery employs women who are residing in our partner crisis shelters after fleeing abusive homes. With a stable income, survivor designed future-focused training, study scholarships, childcare and crisis funds, they are able to take the next steps towards the safe future they deserve.
Bronwyn Bate CEO & Founder of Mettle Women said, “Because of the collective generosity of the funders distributing this grant, we now have the resources to focus on both the immediate needs of women in crisis as a result of domestic & family violence, whilst also investing in infrastructure to build a robust, future focuses business model. This multi-year backing will see us support almost 800 victim-survivors towards the safe, financially secure future they deserve.”