Mercy Community Services Ltd (trading as MercyCare)

Project: Made by Hand – Refugee Microenterprise Project

Location: Northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia

Duration: 9 months

Requested Amount: $40,000 from a total project cost of $92,400. This grant will be used towards project coordination, workshop materials and catering.


Overview: Made-by-Hand will enable up to 30 refugee women living in the northern suburbs of Perth to develop micro-enterprises, generate their own income and increase their financial independence, including via access to selling at Mirrabooka Multicultural Markets and pop-up shops.


Who is the organisation and what is their mission?

MercyCare has been delivering services to vulnerable community members since 1846.

Their vision is for people and communities to thrive. Their mission is to bring compassion and justice to life and break cycles of significant disadvantage. MercyCare has been providing support to refugees and asylum seekers since 2011. It has a deep understanding of the needs of people starting a new life in Australia and a strong connection to local support agencies and refugees in the Mirrabooka community.


What is the project that the 100 Women grant will support?

Made-by-Hand will enable a group of refugee women from the Mirrabooka area to develop micro enterprises, generate their own income and increase their financial independence.

The project builds on broader work already being done in Perth’s Northern suburbs, bringing together community, local government and small-business partners to:

  • Identify refugee women with an interest in micro-enterprise as a source of income
  • Provide access to micro-enterprise training and practical support/mentoring
  • Provide a range of sales channels to reach customers, including the Mirrabooka Multicultural Markets, mobile markets, pop-up shops, and catering
  • Celebrate and showcase the successes of refugee entrepreneurs.


Who is the project for? Who else will benefit?

The target group is 30 vulnerable women from refugee backgrounds. MercyCare has direct relationships with many women through Settlement Engagement and Transition Services, Unaccompanied Minors program, No Interest Loans programs and the Mirrabooka Multicultural Markets. The participant’s families will also benefit from the additional income generated for the family via this project.


Why is the project needed – what is the need or opportunity that is being addressed?

This project responds to the entrepreneurial spirit and aspirations of refugee women who bring unique skills from their countries of origin. These vulnerable women from refugee backgrounds while not ready for traditional employment in the workforce, want to earn an income to increase their financial independence.

Many women ran their own microenterprises before coming to Australia. This was their main source of income and how they adapted to survive, often they were doing this whilst displaced. They intuitively know the business process but need support in the local context to transfer skills. There is an untapped opportunity for these women to generate income via microenterprise.


Why is the solution the best answer to the identified need or opportunity?

There are strong ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors for migrant women to generate income and to move towards financial independence. Many face barriers to employment, including lack of recognition of skills, limited local work experience, low English language, cultural barriers, discrimination and limited access to business/social support systems. Furthermore, many women are juggling the unpaid work demands of caring for families, whilst experiencing isolation in a new country and community.

MercyCare, City Rotary and CARAD have utilised a human centred design approach to scan the current environment, look at gaps and understand the opportunities. Consultation through the Markets Community Working Group (with significant representation of refugee women) has honed understanding of the key needs for refugee microentrepreneurs:

  • Exploration and early preparation work with women keen to start an enterprise.
  • Micro-enterprise training to help women package their business idea in a safe environment with peers.
  • Help with navigating legal, health, safety compliance, and the financial accountability aspects of running a business as well as marketing and visual presentation.
  • Business coaching to enable women to grow their enterprise.
  • Provide additional channels for selling and opportunities for refugee enterprises to reach a greater range of customers.
  • Timely access to capital.

Further, the government recently identified refugee enterprises as an important element in economic recovery. It is partnering with Thrive Loans to fund 230 refugee enterprise loans in 2022.


What are the planned outcomes as a result of the project?

The long-term impact of this project is that refugee and asylum seeker women will generate their own income and gain a level of financial independence through microenterprise. Success will be monitored through a range of outcome measures. Further, a more detailed logic model will be developed to capture intended outcomes and list all indicators and methods of data collection. This will explore the impact of this program and provide reflections and learnings upon program completion.


Are there any notable partners or collaborators?

  • CARAD – there is a strategic alliance to develop livelihoods for vulnerable refugees, including enterprise/direct employment through the Fare Foods social enterprise.
  • City Rotary – provide pro-bono support to our refugee livelihoods work.
  • Business One Stop Shop (Midland) – provide business skills.



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