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Review of Australia’s Welfare System: Enhancing Australian communities through social enterprise

March 13, 2015

It is with interest that I have watched the development of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System.  The findings released by Social Services Minister Scott Morrison on February 25th this year demonstrate a refreshing acknowledgement of the valuable role played by social enterprises.

I strongly support the need for this review and for the continuous improvement of Australia’s welfare system.  It is a living, breathing eco-system that must evolve to improve the lives of all disadvantaged Australians now and into the future.

While I agree in principle with the advent of this report and the findings in a general sense, it is the recommendations relating to social enterprise that I wish to specifically identify, outline and endorse.

According to Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector (FASES) research, jointly conducted by Social Traders and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2010, there are over 20,000 social enterprises already successfully trading and delivering social impact in Australia.

To my knowledge however, this is the first Federal report into Australia’s social welfare system that specifically recommends the need for a social enterprise strategy.

Pillar 4 of the review titled, Building Community Capacity, recognises that social enterprise (along with other types of organisations) plays an important role within communities to increase capacity and innovation.

The review specifically states, “Social enterprises are another means to build community capacity. These organisations are led by an economic, social, cultural or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit. Australia would benefit from a long term strategy to support social enterprise development.”

The review recommendations take this a step further identifying that a longer term strategy for the development of social enterprises is required, “This strategy will consider how to increase demand for investment by enterprises, increase supply of investment to enterprises and improve the enabling environment for social enterprises.”

In response to the Business Council’s recommendation of a bipartisan commitment to a 10-year plan to lock in a lower spending trajectory, journalist, Jennifer Westacott provided advice – on how to implement the report findings (The Australian, 7th March 2015).  As one of many points, Westcott advocated for the incremental adoption of key aspects of the report and the re-design of big spending programs.

As Australia’s leading social enterprise development organisation, Social Traders provides a broad range of support programs, services and advocacy.  It is through this filter that we embrace the Review of Australia’s Welfare System for its identification of social enterprise as an important and growing contributor to achieving successful and sustainable social impact and change in Australia.

I have great optimism about the prospects for social enterprise in Australia and the continued contribution Social Traders can make in assisting social enterprise reach its full potential.

David Brookes, Managing Director at Social Traders.

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