Small Business Training Graduation – Stepping Stones programme

Speech
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education

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Thank you for the invitation to join you all today and share this ceremony that marks a real achievement for the participants in this programme.

Congratulations to everyone who has completed the course, and congratulations to the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the AMP Foundation for supporting it.

The Brotherhood has an outstanding record in assisting vulnerable and marginalised people in this city, which I would like to acknowledge here today.

I would also like to acknowledge the AMP Foundation and commend it for its focus on community engagement and capacity building.

The combined efforts of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the AMP Foundation in supporting the Stepping Stones programme has been impressive, with more than 330 people benefitting to date.

This is an example of how results can be achieved when the corporate sector partners with not-for-profit community-based organisations.

And the results of this programme are to be commended.

I understand nearly half of all Stepping Stone participants subsequently established a small business, while nearly all had improved their financial management skills, expanded their business networks and improved their English skills.

About a quarter of graduates had gained paid work or an improved job and another quarter had started further education and training.

These are impressive numbers and I congratulate both the Brotherhood and the participants.

Establishing a life in a new country is not always easy.

Learning a new language, adapting to new customs, finding a path to education, employment and a satisfying life — these can be enormous challenges and I commend you all for making this new start.

I do believe that Australians are among the most welcoming and friendly people. This country is also unrivalled in the opportunities available for education, employment and starting small businesses.

But starting a new life is always a long journey and each journey must start with a single step, which is what you have achieved today through this programme.

With a little knowledge and a lot of work hard you could join the many notable examples of people who arrived in Australia with very little, but achieved great things in business as much in other fields.

To name but one from an endless list: the Governor of Victoria, Alex Chernov, was born in Lithuania and moved to Australia, before forging a successful career in the law, becoming a Supreme Court judge and chancellor of the University of Melbourne.

I would also like to note that both our current Prime Minister – Tony Abbott – and our previous prime minister – Julia Gillard – were born outside Australia.

In business, there are the Pratts, Lowys – even our signature store here in Melbourne, Myer, was established by a Russian migrant, Sidney Myer.

As these examples show, there are no limits on what migrants to Australia can achieve and our country is enriched by the migrants who choose to make Australia their home.

Congratulations to everyone completing this Stepping Stones programme today.

You have started the journey of a thousand steps and it may well be that the first step was the hardest to take.

I wish everyone graduating today every success in the future.

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