Social Enterprise in Queensland: a regional forum

This event has already happened

Australia has a mature social enterprise ecology comprising of businesses from all sectors in both private and in state markets. However, regional Australia has considerable potential for expansion of social enterprises as innovative ways of working with the unique issues of the regions. The challenge is finding the middle ground between the activities of for-profits and not-for-profits given that social enterprise trade and operation varies, particularly between metropolitan and regional areas.

In 2018, the Queensland government asked Jobs Queensland to explore the social enterprise ecosystem across the state and the support that government could provide to this sector. Dr. Gopalkrishnan, the Chair of SENT, was appointed to the steering committee of this project and was able to represent the interests of Far North Queensland. As part of this research, SENT worked with Jobs QLD and KPMG to initiate discussions with social entrepreneurs in Cairns and surrounding regions. Cairns Institute’s director Professor Stewart Lockie, was very supportive in terms to this work and provided the space for the forum. Members of the steering committee, Crystal Williams and Seamus Campbell, were critical in attracting forty-five attendees from local and neighboring businesses to attend.

KPMG presented preliminary findings from their research from around Cairns. Their conclusions show that the primary beneficiaries of Cairns’ social enterprises are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, those with disabilities, and the homeless. The limited data has raised the concern that more investigation is needed to deeply understand our unique landscape and entrepreneurial activity. The success of the event is in the invaluable insights it gave into the sector’s maturity, its challenges, diversity and foresight for the future. Social enterprises are important in achieving potential social, cultural or environment value. New ways of identifying the extent and the role of social enterprises in the tropics are needed.