Refugees Have Entrepreneurial Potential – Report
26 October 2015 at 11:30 am
With the right support, Australia’s refugees have significant entrepreneurial potential as well as the ability to contribute to the economy, according to a new report.
The report, which looked at the outcomes of the Ignite Small Business Start-ups initiative operated by humanitarian settlement organisation Settlement Services International, was written by Professor Jock Collins of the UTS Business School.
In his report, Igniting the Entrepreneurial passion of Newly Arrives Refugees in Sydney, Professor Collins found that the Ignite initiative showed the significant entrepreneurial potential of refugees and the contribution they could make to the Australian economy with support to overcome settlement challenges.
An initiative funded by SSI, Ignite facilitates business creation for people of refugee background keen to set up a small business or expand an existing one.
Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber, Patricia Forsythe, said at the launch of the report that well over half of all employment in Australia was generated by small business.
“SSI has further developed a unique and innovative program that has demonstrated the great entrepreneurial potential of humanitarian migrants,” Forsythe said.
“It reminds us of the important economic contribution refugees can make as entrepreneurs and small business people, given the right support.”
The report found that there was a strong argument for a larger humanitarian intake not just for humanitarian reasons, but also for an economic one.
“With the help of initiatives such as Ignite, refugees overcome the most incredible hurdles imaginable to start a small business and create income for themselves, their family and employment for others over time,” Professor Collins said.
“The report has shown that the Ignite concept works and, with the support of philanthropists and other sponsors, I’d like to see it rolled out nationally, across urban and regional areas.”
Having worked in the settlement area for more 30 years, SSI CEO and founder of the Ignite initiative, Violet Roumeliotis said she recognised the barriers faced by newly arrived refugees and migrants, but also the wealth of skill and experience many brought with them.
“I had been carrying around this knowledge with me for a long time and I’d been on the lookout for an opportunity to create something for business-minded refugees when I met Ernesto in 2013,” Roumeliotis said.
Dr Ernesto Sirolli of the Sirolli Institute piloted his model of Enterprise Facilitation in Esperance in Western Australia over 30 years ago.
Ms Roumeliotis said that Ignite had taken the Sirolli model and for the first time anywhere in the world, applied it to a refugee community.
“We are thrilled and so proud that this report has proven what many of us in the settlement sector already know; that refugees are keen to put their past behind them and grab with both hands the opportunities that life in Australia has to offer,” she said.