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The Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals migrants who arrived as refugees reported the highest proportion of their incomes “from their own unincorporated businesses”. This income grew as the length of time they spent in Australia, and “increased sharply” after five years of residency. There is significant evidence that most refugees go on to contribute to the Australian economy with their own small to medium-sized enterprises.
An evaluation report of the Ignite small business start-up initiative found that 68% of refugee graduates of the program have moved off Centrelink payments, with some paying company tax and producing jobs for others. The entrepreneurs were contributing to innovation in Australia. SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis says that it wasn’t due to a lack of passion, a business idea or commitment and ability that other students hadn’t set up a business. But “constraint was the time of the enterprise facilitators. With more resources for the program to hire additional enterprise facilitators the success rate would have been much higher.”
Refugee entrepreneurs in Australia
UTS Business School Professor Jock Collins states that there was incredible international interest in the Ignite program, given the exceptional uptake of refugees in the past few years. “New innovative solutions to the challenges of refugee economic engagement and settlement need to be made,” he says. “The Ignite start-ups initiative is evidence-based policy innovation that can be applied across Australia and refugee resettlement nations across the world.” Many of the applicants that participated in the evaluation came from Iran (87), Iraq (34) and Syria (23).
One of Ignite’s most recent entrepreneurs, Hamid Ariento, came to Australia in 2013 at the age of 15 , seeking refuge from Iran. He began learning magic tricks. Within two years, he was a professional, doing shows for television and performing in Iran, Malaysia, Singapore and for the Queen of Belgium.
Success of Ignite start-ups initiative
Following the success of Ignite, Roumeliotis stated that humanitarian non-profit organisation Settlement Services International (SSI) will be adapting a similar model to tackle barriers and meet the needs of entrepreneurs with disability.
“Through a new program called Ignite Ability, Ignite facilitators will provide an ecosystem of support for aspiring entrepreneurs with disability, their families and their carers,” Roumeliotis said.
Read some of their fantastic success stories here.
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