Green Connect was launched by SCARF in 2011, and received funding to develop a social enterprise providing employment opportunities for former refugees in waste recovery at events. It was started by Robynne Murphy and Sarah Chisholm. In 2013, Jess Moore was engaged by SCARF to wind it up. However, seeing that Green Connect could work as an enterprise, Jess moved it to Our Community Project, and led turning it into the social enterprise it is today, funding the majority of work (and employment and waste recovery outcomes) with income from trade.
Work in waste recovery grew, and labour hire services were launched to help connect refugee to staff to other businesses, industries and opportunities. In 2014 Green Connect also incorporated Urban Grown, a great urban farm working with young people, that was about to close down as its funding came to an end. This gave Green Connect the capacity to launch its third business arm: fair food. Green Connect started selling weekly vegetable boxes to households, selling boxes of vegetables to restaurants, and creating employment opportunities for a second target group: young people.
Green Connects goals were set: to create meaningful jobs for groups experiencing high unemployment. Specifically, it recovers waste, grows fair food and employs former refugees and young people. It does this with its local community.
By 2017, Green Connect had grown bigger than its host organisation and needed to find a new home that shared its aims and would enable it to grow further. In February 2018, the team moved into a new office on the main street of Port Kembla, Green Connect merged with Community Resources Ltd, and Kylie Flament came on board as the new General Manager.
In 2019, we launched a new Youth Employment Program to support at-risk young people into training, work experience and paid employment.
As we continued to grow, in 2020 we moved again, this time into our current office in Unanderra where one of our Op Shops is located. The following year we opened a second Op Shop on the campus of the University of Wollongong and proudly accepted the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Award for Innovation in Sustainable Development. As a result, His Excellency the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley came on board as Co-Patrons.
Kylie departed after five years, and in August 2022 we welcomed our new General Manager Robert Servine to the team. Bringing over 12 years of experience in managing teams within the nonprofit and government sectors, one of his main aims was to simplify our wonderful yet complex social enterprise while retaining its heart and soul. As a result, Green Connect has experienced significant change in the last year, and while challenging at times, we’re making great strides: We have increased the production on the farm by more than 40%, have established ourselves with our Zero Waste Services, relaunched our Op Shops and have just embarked on a significant project funded by the Department of Home Affairs to support even more refugees and humanitarian entrants to find sustainable employment.