Message from the Minister
Jaclyn Symes, Minister for Regional Development
Victoria’s regions are its lifeblood. Our state is renowned for its food and fibre, advanced manufacturing and tourism industries – all of which make a major economic contribution.
You can see from the geographical breadth of the case studies in this report that social enterprises and social procurement opportunities are not just limited to Melbourne.
I’m proud that so much of our State is represented in these stories, and that Victorians who live in country communities are now benefiting from new economic opportunities thanks to social procurement.
As we recover from coronavirus, the devastating bushfires, drought and industry transition, the Government will continue to take active steps to support employment and businesses in regional Victoria.
In 2018-19 the Social Procurement Framework applied to Victorian Government departments and core agencies. In 2019-20 this number grew significantly to include more than 275 eligible agencies, extending our knowledge and understanding of the initiatives being undertaken throughout Victoria's regions.
The regional location of reported social procurement case study initiatives for 2019-20 are:
- Mallee region
- Yarra Valley region
- Lower Ovens region
- Port Campbell
- Lake Tyers
- Western Port region
Birchip Cropping Group Provides Field Trial Services for Agricultural Research
It provides evidence, support and tools to improve farm management practices and profitability, and it has been particularly active in providing agricultural research field trial services for projects.
This work led to a spend of more than $110,000, which has supported Birchip Cropping Group’s mission to improve the prosperity of farmers and agricultural communities through research and innovation.
Fiona Best, Chief Executive Officer of Birchip Cropping Group, says:
'The work we do with the Department is an important component of the annual program for 12 Birchip-based staff, who are directly involved in researching and extending the learnings with departmental staff across the Wimmera, Mallee and North Central regions.'
Paddock to plate principles at Peppergreen Farm
(AAG) helps regional Victorians who may struggle to find work in the mainstream labour market. AAG runs three social enterprises, PepperGreen Farm, PepperGreen Farm Catering and Access Employment Enterprises (AAG), which together employ around 100 people from our regions under a supported employment model.
PepperGreen Farm is a five-acre fruit and vegetable farm in North Bendigo. Produce from the farm is harvested for PepperGreen Farm Catering, a commercial catering business that also provides employment opportunities for people with disability or disadvantage.
All profits generated are put back into the business – and thus our regions – to support employees on their journey of social connectedness, skills uptake and personal growth.
Employees gain practical training in horticulture, propagation and harvesting, paddock to plate principles, as well as hospitality in the café and retail space.
PepperGreen ensures that people in our regions who face barriers to education and training have the opportunity to develop their skills in a supportive and appropriate environment.
One of the many projects undertaken by Access Employment Enterprises (AAG) at PepperGreen was a contract to supply with nesting boxes for mammals (including sugar gliders) and birds in the and the Bendigo Regional Park.
One participant in particular, Joel McNeil, showed exceptional skill and enthusiasm during the project, which led him to obtain a carpentry apprenticeship at PepperGreen Farm.
Speaking through his interpreter, Joel says:
'Coming to PepperGreen Farm to work on the nesting boxes was something I really enjoyed. ‘I met people who were all really supportive, which made me enjoy being here and want to come back. They also helped me to get my apprenticeship at the farm.'
Reviewed 10 December 2020