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Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Wins Social Enterprise Award

1 December 2016 at 4:36 pm
Ellie Cooper
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s catering business was one of eight social enterprises honoured at the annual Social Enterprise Awards.

Ellie Cooper | 1 December 2016 at 4:36 pm


Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Wins Social Enterprise Award
1 December 2016 at 4:36 pm

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s catering business was one of eight social enterprises honoured at the annual Social Enterprise Awards.

ASRC Catering took out the award for social enterprise of the year (small) on Wednesday evening.

“We were really, really pleased last night, it was a great award to win,” ASRC social enterprise volunteer Ben Robb told Pro Bono Australia News.  

“We all felt pretty privileged just to be there really, so to win it was a really great feeling.”

The other winners were:

  • Soft Landing for social enterprise of the year (large)
  • MYC Painting Services for the one to watch award
  • Vanguard for the capital for impact award
  • $40K PLUS for the social enterprise innovation award
  • Brisbane City Council for the buy social award
  • Walter Villagonzalo for the social enterprise champion award
  • Tjanpi Desert Weavers for the inaugural women’s impact award.

David Brookes, managing director of Social Traders, which runs the awards, said the winners highlighted the role social enterprise played in Australian communities.

“Increasingly we’re seeing social enterprises playing prominent roles in providing employment and training opportunities for those most marginalised in society, as well as providing community solutions where the market has failed,” Brookes said.

“These winners represent the innovative nature of social enterprise at finding new ways to solve old problems.”

Robb said the impact of ASRC Catering had continued to grow over the past year.

The social enterprise, founded in 2005, provides people seeking asylum with training and employment, with profits channelled into the ASRC.

“In the financial year just gone we serviced over 1,000 catering functions, and that provided something like 15,000 hours of paid employment to our members,” Robb said.

“It’s not just the income, which is clearly a big benefit for them, but the opportunity to get their foot in the door with paid employment is often quite a difficult challenge for our members.

“For those that are lucky enough to have work rights we’re often a very first employment step for them where they can gain confidence, they can get a good reference, improve their social wellbeing, make them feel part of the community, and it’s a place where they feel safe and they feel valued.

“We’ve been able to do that for quite a lot of members in this last year.”

ASRC Catering also ticked over the $1 million revenue mark, which Robb said was “a big milestone to reach”.

“That’s all self-generated business income, not a single dollar of that comes from grants or external funding, it’s all coming from our own business, our own revenue generation.”

The social enterprise moved to a new kitchen this year, located in North Fitzroy.  At three times the size of the previous kitchen, it will allow more more hands-on training for members.

All eight winners of the awards will be sent to Christchurch for the Social Enterprise World Forum in September 2017.

Robb said, for ASRC Catering, it would be an opportunity to “network and share ideas, understand best practice, hear from world leaders”.

“I think we’ll come away with some new ideas that will help us in our next phase of our development, which is really growing from a small business into a medium and ultimately a large business. And how to do that and how not to do that,” he said.

He said, along with aggressive growth targets, next year ASRC Catering would begin to focus more on social outcomes rather than financial outcomes.  

“That’s partly through providing more employment, but it’s also partly through getting better at measuring those outcomes,” he said.

“It’s something we haven’t been able to focus much on because we’ve been too busy just dealing with our day-to-day business, but we recognise that it’s important to try to measure the social outcomes and become more transparent about what we’re actually achieving.

“We’re doing some really good stuff, but I just don’t feel that that has historically had the level of transparency, both inside ASRC and outside ASRC, that it deserves.

“That’s why last night’s another part of increasing that transparency about what we do, because we are proud of what we do, but we need to get that message out there a little bit more front and centre.”

The eight winners were chosen from a finalist pool of 26 social enterprises by a judging panel made up of Simon Gillies from PwC, Belinda Morrissey from the English Family Foundation, Catherine Brown from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Ian O. Williamson from Melbourne Business School and Luke Geary from Salvos Legal.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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