Social enterprises in Wangaratta will have greater opportunities to expand their business, employ new staff and access more markets as part of the Andrews Labor Government’s landmark Social Enterprise Strategy.

Labor Upper House Member for Northern Victoria, Jaclyn Symes, today launched the strategy at Merriwa Industries – a social enterprise employing people with a disability or disadvantage, through a range of businesses including timber and packaging.

The new Social Enterprise Strategy, which is supported by $5 million in funding from the Labor Government, identifies three key areas for action:

  • Increasing sector impact and innovation;
  • Building business capacity and skills;
  • Improving market access.

Ms Symes said immediate priorities include establishing a state-wide Victorian Social Enterprise Network, sector research and economic modelling, a feasibility study for online skills development and training opportunities for social enterprises.

A social procurement framework will also be developed to help open more government contracts to purchasing goods and services from social enterprises, generating positive outcomes for the Victorian economy and community.

“Social enterprises based in the Wangaratta region do amazing work for our local communities, and they will directly benefit from the initiatives outlined in this Australian-first strategy,” Ms Symes said.

“This sector has enormous potential for economic growth and job creation, and I’m excited to watch it flourish right here in Wangaratta and throughout Northern Victoria.

“Merriwa Industries is a great example of how successful businesses can be while providing substantial social benefits.

“After an amazing 40 plus years in business, I understand Merriwa’s revenue has now reached over $20 million per annum – a remarkable achievement.

“At the same time the business offers employment opportunities for around 80 people – within a larger workforce of around 240 – who may otherwise have been disadvantaged in the labour market.

“Not only are jobs provided, which creates the greatest impacts in individuals lives, but also a range of community services can be funded that provide essential support, such as shared, supported accommodation and respite care.”

The Wangaratta region is home to more than 100 social enterprises, and it also benefits from the Government’s $1.4 million Algabonyah Employment and Partnerships program, bridging the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the Goulburn-Murray region.

You can access a copy of the Social Enterprise Strategy at