GROW Program

Giving Real Opportunities Within.

Acacia Connections believes every connection matters. Through our connections we are able to identify opportunities to give back. We show this by contributing to the economic, social and environmental well-being of our communities.

The Background

Following the airing of SBS Series Filthy Rich and Homeless, Acacia Connections Founder, Greg Kentish was compelled to ignite change in the area of homelessness. Greg recognised that even the ability to relieve one person from homelessness and aid them in their journey to employment would be worth it. Soon after this idea was sparked, Greg extrapolated the figure and realised if just 1 in every 11 companies in Australia adopt this idea and relieve just one individual from homelessness, the homeless epidemic will be significantly improved.

This idea sparked the formation of Australia’s first GROW Project, pioneered by Acacia Connections, to end homelessness in Australia. GROW stands for Giving Real Opportunities Within and forms the vision of this movement. We aim to end the homelessness epidemic through the provision of work opportunities and continued support for personal growth. At Acacia Connections, we have welcomed four new employees into our team and family through the GROW Project.

Our GROW Program Journey

Greg introduced the idea of the GROW Project to the Acacia Connections team and we reached out to our Acacia EAP company clients, Sharp & Carter and Brisbane Housing Company to assist us with providing the best support possible to applicants.

Brisbane Housing Company provide subsidised housing to eligible applicants in the Brisbane area. Acacia Connections worked with Brisbane Housing Company to advertise our employment opportunity to their residents and short-list six applicants who were suited for the opportunity.

We recognise that for individuals who have/are experiencing periods of homelessness, the provision of work alone is not enough to prevent people from falling back into homelessness. As a result, Acacia Connections have partnered with Sharp & Carter, a recruitment agency and provider of vocational training to allow individuals the best reintegration into the workforce possible and provide these individuals with the supports needed to maintain this integration successfully. Acacia Connections offered this coaching to all short-listed applicants to allow them to perform at their best during the interview process and if unsuccessful, carry this skillset onto future interviewing processes.

With our background in counselling through Acacia EAP, we recognise the importance of self-confidence, self-awareness and self-care and particularly, the depletion of these skills in individuals experiencing homelessness. We have made counselling available to our GROW Project employees through our EAP and counselling connections to enable them to work through any pre-existing concerns and facilitate the best transition back into the workforce. As we roll-out the GROW Project to our existing company clients and encourage them to join the movement, we look forward to supporting these individuals through the provision of counselling as their EAP provider.

Moving Forward

We have successfully hired and presented three employees for positions in the Acacia Connections Group and tailored the requirements of each position with respect to the individual’s capacity and current skillset. All employees have the opportunity to grow within our team and will always have supports available to assist them with their development. In addition to this, within our Brisbane Head Office, our GROW Project employees each have a mentor that they can come to with any questions or concerns and guide them through the reintegration process.

We have also pledged to stay with applicants who were unsuccessful in the hiring process until they find employment. Acacia Connections will continue to provide supports including vocational training, resume writing and education to build the skillset and confidence of these individuals for future employment. We have also targeted the issue of lack of resources for individuals who were not offered employment through the provision of clothing vouchers and covering travel expenses.

Following our successful launch of the GROW Project, we hope to roll-out this initiative to our company clients in the near future and encourage them to be a part of the movement. We hope to reduce the stigma surrounding homelessness and emphasise the critical value of a helping hand for individuals in need.

GROW Program Testimonials

Brisbane Housing Company:
 

BHC is incredibly grateful to be involved in the GROW Program run by Acacia Connections. This program has been both a professional and empowering experience for participants, providing opportunities for both employment and personal growth. Of the seven BHC residents who engaged in the program, three were able to achieve part-time employment and the remaining four were offered continued support until they are able to gain employment. BHC has been impressed by the genuine care and support offered by the GROW Program and we are excited to see the participants continue to flourish with this additional support.

At BHC, we understand that there can be many barriers to employment for people who have experienced disadvantage and adversity in their life. Whether it’s a lack of suitable opportunities, past trauma or history influencing an application, or even something as simple as transportation issues, seeking sustainable employment can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. Through the GROW Program, everyday corporates are able to offer real, long-term employment opportunities to people who are motivated to work. We hope to see the GROW Program continue to excel and offer even more opportunities for people to access meaningful employment in the future.

Sharp & Carter:

Sharp & Carter Specialist Recruitment in Brisbane partnered with Acacia Connections to support their GROW Program that aims to combat homelessness through assistance in gaining employment. Various experienced recruitment specialists volunteered their time to meet with numerous candidates to provide expertise and advice with interviewing for roles to help them further their career.

The partnership aligned strongly with the Sharp & Carter guiding principles: care, generosity, trust and humility and we look forward to working on similar projects with Acacia in the near future to help make a difference!

A few words from our GROW Team Members...

"Homelessness was an unexpected outcome following the

disintegration of my marriage. As a victim of years of emotional and financial abuse. I made the hardest decision to leave my husband and all my possessions and move to Brisbane Queensland from Sydney NSW.

The decision was made even more challenging as I have a 12-year-old daughter. With no money (due to my husband removing all money from our joint bank account), I was unable to find a home to rent and forced to couch surf with a relative.

I learnt quickly that whilst there were many agencies available to help me, accessing them and understanding how they could assist me was a challenge.

Homelessness eroded my confidence. I went from being a confident working woman to feeling completely helpless. I am slowly building my life through tenacity and persistence. I found a place to live through Brisbane Housing Company.

The opportunity for employment arrived in my letter box via a leaflet at our new address. This job particularly appealed to me as the role is supported and I was keen to build my administration skills. My circumstances meant that I could only work school hours and the 30 hours a week work suited me perfectly.

During my interview with the company director, I was made to feel at ease I let my guard down and told him my history around DV and homelessness. I was extremely happy to have been offered the role at Acacia Group.

I started at Acacia Group in Sept 2019 with the Intake Team, due to the fantastic training and supportive staff I was moved onto Engagement Team Dec 2019.

My confidence has been restored with my job at Acacia. I love my job and working with the Acacia Group has been beyond my expectations. I am now able to provide for my daughter who started high school this year.  We are planning a holiday with my eldest daughter (who lives overseas) for Christmas this year. The best outcome for me is being a good example for my daughter, who often asks when can I get a job?"

Rachel, Acacia Connections GROW Team Member (name changed for privacy)

"This program has been just so supportive for me. I have been very isolated due to ill health for about 6 years and this work opportunity has allowed me to regain my skills and self worth. This opportunity has engaged me in work that I enjoy and find challenging and rewarding. I also work with people with extraordinary insight motivation and compassion for the well-being of others."

Penny, Acacia Connections GROW Team Member (name changed for privacy)

How many of us have faced unimaginable trauma in our lives? Then had the audacity to blame ourselves… With guilt and fear following us around like punishment, interfering with every step, every decision we make in our lives. Luckily for me, the Brisbane Housing Company (BHC) provided me with affordable housing after 4 years of being homeless. The fears of not being able to provide for myself, not only because of where I was emotionally and mentally, but also physically, slowly started lifting. One day I emptied out my mailbox, which of course, was filled with junk mail that I rarely read. Imagine my skepticism when a small trivial flyer dropped on the floor, forcing me to pick it up. I put it aside, for several days before I actually read it. There are moments that mark our lives… this was mine. Working with Acacia has been like a gift to me. I have greater balance in my life, more confidence and fulfillment. My communication skills have improved. The work ethic of all co-workers at Acacia is amazing. All staff have a wonderful sense of integrity. Their intuition and knowledge unsurpassable. I am so, so grateful for where I am today. Businesses that get involved with the GROW program really can help people to stop only seeing what they haven’t achieved and have more confidence in themselves.

Laura, Acacia Connections GROW Team Member (name changed for privacy)

"The safety and wellbeing of our clients and staff is always our top priority. Acacia EAP is currently operating under normal conditions. Due to the pandemic status of COVID-19, some locations may move from face-to-face counselling to secure video or phone. All counselling services are able to be provided 24/7, as always. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and act quickly on the advice of health authorities."