An ageing population is a global phenomenon and Australia is no exception. Although there are labour shortages experienced in many industries, participation of over-50s, particularly women, within the labour market has been declining rapidly, due to age and gender discrimination and lack of understanding of contributions older workers can make. Thus, the growth in self-employment since 2000 has been fuelled by the over-50s who are finding it increasingly hard to find full-time work.

Added to this trend, an increasing number of older women are seeking help for homelessness.

“It should be troubling to us all that that too many of the women who cared for their elderly parents, the women who gave birth to the next generation and the women who worked their whole lives … are now living ‘on the edge’.”

The Sisters Project, led by Dr Dhara Shah from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation aims to empower ‘sisters’ by building their self-efficacy, fostering their earnings, bringing them together in groups to form support networks or partnerships, and providing them with skill development, training, mentoring and coaching support, and grants to start a small business.

The ‘Sisters’ are women who are 50 years and over on Newstart Allowance or other government benefits, who are underemployed or unemployed and have poor future financial security but are keen to work and generate income.

The final objective of the project is to develop self-sufficient women who are connected into their community networks, with increased skills and opportunities for employment. In turn, this will develop community capacity, provide a pathway for other women in similar circumstances and have intergenerational impact.

Success of this project is not about building successful and sustainable businesses, it is about building self-confidence and skills, to enable broader employment and creating a pathway to financial independence.

More information is available on the Sisters support business together website.