On Wednesday 17 March 2021, Griffith University celebrated the successes of the Sisters’ project participants (women fifty years and over dependent on welfare) as they each received certificates recognising their achievements over the past two years. It marked a major milestone for the accomplishments of the dedicated Sisters who, by participating in the Sisters’ project, either established a micro-business or gained employment or training opportunities and as a result
increased skills and confidence.

The Sisters Support Business Together program, created and led by Dr Dhara Shah, has helped empower these women to realise their business dreams, while building their self-confidence and social networks and combatting social isolation challenges.

Dr Shah said the Sisters are representatives of a growing cohort of women – over 50, living in public housing or are at risk of homelessness and dependent on government welfare.

“Their energy and ideas in creating their own businesses were truly inspirational.”

The aim of the project was to empower and make Sisters’ self-sufficient, socially thriving through training, coaching and support to either start a micro-business or gain confidence or employment or further training. It was a perfect example of academia, government, industry, and community coming together to support and empower women that have fallen through the cracks.

Dr Peter Binks, Griffith University’s Vice President Industry and External Engagement and Professor David Grant, Griffith Business School Pro Vice-Chancellor gave inspiring speeches at the graduation ceremony highlighting Griffith’s support of projects that have a real impact on lives of women, who due to structural inequities, are forced into cycles of poverty and homelessness. Their speeches were very heartfelt and well received by the amazing women who make up the cohort.

In attendance were the Sisters’ mentors who have played a crucial role in supporting the Sisters, our government guests and partners, Sisters’ friends and family, Griffith dignitaries and staff members showing their support and cheering for the Sisters. Please watch a video from the graduation ceremony here.

Apart from the hard work the Sisters put into getting their businesses off the ground, the unique strengths and skills they already possessed were given wings by Dhara and the project team, Professor Ingrid Burkett, Dr Nancy Spencer, Dr Ainslie Meiklejohn, Dr Fiona Archontoulis, Maria Georgas and Simon Fraser.

Dr Shah said the diversity of the women was reflected in the types of businesses they undertook, from sewing, pillow-making, floral arrangements, training, bookkeeping, pet grooming, décor and homewares, massage, online retail and so many more.

Despite the challenges the Sisters faced, including COVID-19, they showed resilience, grit and commitment to overcome those hurdles.

One Sister said “the project gave them dignity”. Another described the project as “a new lease on life” An inspiration video showcases four of the Sisters speaking about what the project has done for them personally.

The project which commenced in early 2019 comes to an end on 31st March 2021. While it is an emotional time for the Sisters and the project team, it is also a time for celebration of the wonderful achievements of the Sisters and a true example of what women can achieve given the opportunities, the support and coaching.

Dr Shah said she was very thankful the Australian Government Department of Social Services for funding the project through their Try Test and Learn Funding and also to the Queensland Government Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy and Department of Employment, Small Business and Training who have provided huge in-kind support for the project.


Dhara Shah