17 October 2023

Right now, more than 200,000 Australians with complex barriers to work are employed by over 12,000 social enterprises across our nation. These social enterprises offer secure, fairly paid work for so many people who for too long have missed out on opportunities—employment opportunities that so many of us take for granted. These are opportunities that lead to lifelong friendships, fulfilling careers, the building of skills knowledge and enhanced self-esteem. This growing sector offers inclusive employment, job training and on-the-job support. That's why social enterprises are one of the key target areas identified by the Treasurer in our government's employment white paper.

In response to the white paper, our government will draw on the expertise of the social enterprise sector and build its capacity to improve employment for people who are experiencing entrenched disadvantage. This is a policy move that will drive far-reaching and positive results, especially in my own electorate of Corangamite in Victoria, which is home to some of our nation's most remarkable social enterprises.

I recently had the great pleasure to meet staff and volunteers at Star Cafe, a social enterprise led by aged-care provider Villa Maria Catholic Homes in Torquay. Cathy, Lindy-Joy and the workers at Star of the Sea do an incredible job, and I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage all locals on the Surf Coast and across my electorate to drop by for a coffee, a pastry or a delicious treat.

Our government recognises the importance of social enterprises like Star Cafe. It's why we're already partnering with the sector to create more opportunities for more Australians. We've introduced the Social Enterprise Development Initiative, which supports social enterprises. Under the new outcomes fund, we are partnering with states, territories and service providers to tackle disadvantage and organise inclusive job opportunities. All in all, this commitment ties in with our government's reform agenda. It's all about boosting jobs and skills.

Whether it be through fee-free TAFE, apprenticeships or local social enterprises, we are committed to ensuring all Australians can access rewarding work. Rewarding, fairly paid work is so important. It builds confidence and self-esteem. It builds skills and friendships. Importantly, it delivers a fair wage. There should not be barriers to achieving these outcomes. Social enterprises like Star Cafe must be commended because they break down barriers and embrace inclusive, rewarding work.