Social procurement? Give asylum seekers a chance with the Brotherhood of St Laurence

Today we welcome Jo Tabit from the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s ‘Given the Chance’ program to present the organisation’s successful employment program for asylum seekers as an option for organisations seeking to meet social procurement targets.

Many companies bidding for government projects are now faced with social procurement targets. The Brotherhood of St Laurence represents a social enterprise that can provide support to businesses that need to meet these targets – particularly against objectives such as:

  • Supplier expenditure with social enterprises (sometimes this can represent 5% of the total purchase price), and
  • Disadvantaged communities (long-term unemployed, disengaged youth, single parents, migrants, refugees and workers in transition).

The following guest post from Jo Tabit, Senior Manager Given the Chance, illustrates how organisations can engage with the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Given the Chance employment programs to meet these social procurement requirements. Welcome, Jo!

Jo Tabit - Brotherhood of St Laurence
Jo Tabit, Brotherhood of St Laurence


The Brotherhood of St Laurence has a long history of supporting jobseekers from disadvantaged backgrounds through our Given the Chance Social Enterprise recruitment model. Broadly speaking, the model involves providing intensive support and guidance to jobseekers, while also working closely with employers driven by a sense of corporate social responsibility.

In July 2013, we were able to extend and adapt our model to assist asylum seekers in Melbourne, thanks to funding from a generous private philanthropist. The aims of the resulting Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers (GTCAS) program were to develop and demonstrate an employment service for people seeking asylum, involve employers as active partners, and – importantly – use the results to inform policy and public discourse.

We’re delighted with the outcomes of the GTCAS program, through which we’ve worked with more than 200 employers to support 545 people seeking asylum with work rights to get a job, often their first in Australia.

An independent cost-benefit analysis of GTCAS, conducted by KPMG, has found that for every dollar invested in the program, there was a $3.08 return, with $1.56 being the return to government. The key outcomes of the study are summarised in the following short animation:

Moreover, even though the original funding concluded in June 2018, the GTCAS program now has the support of the State Government’s Jobs Victoria Network, funded by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. This has enabled the program’s expansion to three new Melbourne locations where there are many asylum seekers looking for jobs – Epping, Dandenong and Flemington.

How does the Given the Chance social enterprise model work?

Our candidates are not obligated to participate in our program; they are voluntary participants, keen to work but lacking networks and job-seeking know-how.

The Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers program works by assessing the job readiness of participants, providing them with pre-employment advice and guidance, assisting them to navigate Australian recruitment processes, and ensuring they understand the norms and expectations of local workplaces. This includes preparing jobseekers for each workplace through customised pre-employment training.

Participants are also linked to other government services (such as homelessness services) as required. Members of the Brotherhood of St Laurence team regularly follow up with program participants for up to six months once they are in employment, then help them with finding further work if the job was short-term.

This provides employers with a supported recruitment model to secure more diverse sources of labour to meet corporate social responsibility, social procurement and workforce diversity objectives. In addition, by employing a trainee or apprentice, businesses can simultaneously meet the Major Projects Skills Guarantee obligation to skill up Victoria’s workforce.

Brotherhood of St Laurence - Given the Chance for asylum seekers - social enterprise

How does the program support employers?

The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s experience is that employers (public sector, private sector and the not-for-profit sector) are keen to provide sustainable employment opportunities for disadvantaged jobseekers, if they are given the right support.

Our team ensures partner organisations are trained and equipped to take on disadvantaged workers so they can properly support their new employees – whether as trainees, apprentices or workers. This includes delivery of a 90-minute employer training program to workplace supervisors, managers, buddies and mentors to ensure they understand the specific support needs and adopt our recommended strategies for performance management.

Employers can interview a range of candidates to get the best match for their business. For the first six months of a placement, we focus on building trust relationships between Given the Chance field officers, employer supervisors and asylum seeker candidates, offsetting and managing risk, ensuring the business benefits and staff teams are taken care of.

Win-win outcomes for all

Through the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Given the Chance programs, we’ve demonstrated that this level of support for both employers and disadvantaged jobseekers results in stronger retention rates throughout the placement opportunity and higher post-placement success.

We have operated this model with the ANZ Bank for the last 10 years and achieved remarkable post-placement employment outcomes: 80% of participants have gone on to other roles within the bank, or to other employment once their original placement concluded.

The GTCAS program has achieved a 65% rate of retention to 26 weeks sustained employment, which is significantly higher than the Commonwealth’s mainstream Job-Active employment support service, which historically has achieved 31% for ‘stream b’ jobseekers.

When an employer takes a candidate from one of our Given the Chance programs, they are helping a refugee, a person seeking asylum, a young person, someone in public housing, or a person who has just lost their confidence due to prolonged periods of applications and rejections.

The result is a win-win for jobseeker and employer. The jobseeker is helped to build a better life, and the employer builds a more diverse workplace with employees who are committed to making the most of their opportunity. In addition, their employment can be counted towards meeting targets laid out by the Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework.

For further information about the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Given the Chance social procurement programs contact Senior Manager Given the Chance, Jo Tabit, on M 0448 332 023 E or Employer Engagement Lead, Simon Gray, on M 0427 258 521 E


Stay Tuned!

In collaboration with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Sustainability Victoria, Mia will host a special information session on Wednesday 1 May focused on how to meet the requirements of the Social Procurement Framework. Sign up to our mailing list to make sure you receive an invitation. Stay tuned!

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