For 27 years now, the Telstra Business Awards has celebrated and showcased Australia’s best in the business, but 2019 will go down in history for a very special reason.

It is my great pleasure to share that homeless shelter and not for profit organization, Dignity, was last night named the 2019 Telstra Australian Business of the Year.

It is the first time that the winner of our Social Change Maker category has also been named Business of the Year.

The Social Change Maker category’s name and criteria have evolved over the decades, but its essence – recognising organisations where a positive social impact is at the core of their purpose, and who apply innovative solutions to address social issues and better the world we live in – has not.

Doing good business

Dignity is a living, working example of how business thinking can provide a viable solution to a real-world problem.

Frustrated with the increasing rate of homelessness, founder Suzanne Hopman knew there must be a way to stop the problem from the outset. Her idea was Dignity, which focused on supporting people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness by providing shelter, food, clothing, advocacy and education, to empower people to regain control of their lives.

Just four years later, the New South Wales-based organisation has assisted 70,000 people.

Our judges were inspired by Dignity’s passion for breaking the homelessness cycle and its commitment to truly learning from its clients, while building a robust business model that has created systemic social change.

“We have so much more to be done and know that we will use this award to shine a light on people experiencing homelessness,” Ms Hopman said last night.

An innovation celebration

We also recognised three other outstanding businesses who took home national accolades last night.

Sonder, from New South Wales, won the Emerging & Energised Award. Sonder uses cutting-edge technology to mobilise spare capacity among ex and off-duty emergency services personnel to make safety and support services accessible to everyone. The judges were impressed by their innovation and commitment to safety in the community, without compromising commercial success and growth prospects.

Water Tight Canberra won the Small & Succeeding Award due their ongoing commitment to social and environmentally conscious practices re-engineering the plumbing industry. The judges were impressed by Water Tight Canberra’s fastidious approach to business, finding a niche in a crowded market through their focus on detail, customer service and supporting their local community.

Modibodi is the recipient of both the Medium & Making Waves Award and People’s Choice Award. They are protective apparel brand for menstruation and incontinence leaks, sweat, odour and more, eliminating the need for costly and uncomfortable single-use hygiene products. The judges commended their ever-evolving innovation, giving it a remarkable edge over its competitors.

It takes courage and resilience to build a future-thinking, customer-centric business, and this year’s winners are an outstanding example of this. To reach this stage of the Telstra Business Awards is a huge achievement, and we thank these businesses for their hard work to improve the lives of Australians. We wish them all the best with their future success, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll achieve next.

Nominations for 2020 are already open, so if you want to nominate a business – even if it’s your own, go to the Telstra Business Awards website.