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Ending homelessness within a fortnight: social change maker Dignity’s story

Telstra Business Awards

Posted on November 28, 2019

4 min read


When Suzanne Hopman witnessed a young family experiencing homelessness, she was determined to address the issue in Australia one person at a time. Her not-for-profit organisation Dignity aims to do just that by helping people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness – and has gone on to be crowned Telstra’s Business of the Year 2019.

People often ask if we are a business or a charity. The answer is that we are both. In order to be the most efficient, stable, transparent charity that we can be, we need to run as an incredible business. We do not make a profit – but every dollar saved is a dollar we can spend helping someone, and every dollar wasted is a dollar we can’t use. It’s an incredible responsibility.

I’ll never forget that moment when I knew things had to change.

I was visiting a mother, and her little baby and five-year-old daughter Sophie, who were experiencing homelessness. They had just checked into a really dingy motel – it was like something out of a horror movie. There was a visible layer of grime on the floor and I was taking small breaths so I didn’t breathe in the smell of the room.

While I was talking to the mum, Sophie was just on the corner of the bed so quietly – no tears, but a look in her eyes of pure terror that I will never forget. They had nothing to eat, no nappies, no clean clothes and no idea what to do next.

Restoring dignity is a critical step in empowering people experiencing homelessness.

At Dignity, we aim to empower people to end their homelessness within 14 days. That is 14 days from the first day of homelessness to stable accommodation. Last month, we averaged less than eight days. At Dignity, our properties are beautiful, we offer delicious homecooked meals made by incredible volunteers, and have a team offering brand new clothes and well-trained support workers.

I wish that Dignity had been there for Sophie. In less than 4 years, we’ve journeyed alongside more than 50,000 people and ended their homelessness.


Homelessness does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone.

Usually, a few things have just gone terribly wrong until life has spiralled out of control. It can creep up on those who’ve always had a place to call home, and never contemplated life would be any different.

No two stories are ever the same, but one thing they often have in common is a level of trauma; trauma from whatever has caused the homelessness, and trauma from the homelessness itself.


A diverse team with one mission.

We don’t have an office.

Instead, our team works remotely to reduce our overheads and 97 per cent of every dollar we are donated goes directly to supporting people who are homeless. But this is not why we’re successful in achieving our goals. The key lies in our complete and unwavering focus on our mission to support people experiencing homelessness.

We believe we can end homelessness in Australia, and our ultimate aim is to do just that. We can’t get this result by providing aid or just helping people who are homeless; instead, we need to empower people who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of experiencing homelessness.


This award from Telstra is in celebration of all who have ended their homelessness and who got into stable housing – you have inspired us with your stories of how you overcame the adversity, endured humiliation, risen above embarrassment and shame.

It’s your courage and strength that is to be admired – this is for you.

History made with the 2019 Telstra Business of the Year

Telstra Business Awards

Posted on November 22, 2019

3 min read

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.

Have your say on Australia’s best business

Telstra Business Awards

Posted on October 31, 2019

6 min read

Here’s your chance to vote for your favourite Aussie business as part of the Telstra People’s Choice Award. Who will you pick out of these finalists?

The Telstra Business Awards are an exclusive platform that recognise Australia’s best businesses, provide expert advice and help businesses gain the credibility to unlock new opportunities.

Behind each local business are people who day-in and day-out dedicate their lives to bringing us the services that we need. They inspire us for their resilience, courage and incredible commitment to business. They deserve our support.

Café Mojo Mundaring

That’s why we have the Telstra Business Awards. For over 25 years now, we’ve been celebrating Australian small-to-medium businesses for their spirit, tenacity and originality. We not only celebrate the successful past that Aussie businesses have been through, but also give them the platform for future success.

The Awards recognise the strategy and vision of a business, as well as the people and culture, the social responsibility and financial acumen amongst other criteria. Through the People’s Choice Award, we’re giving everyone the chance to get behind some of the best local businesses and give them recognition on a national platform.


There are 32 businesses to be recognised this year in the 2019 Telstra Australian Business Awards, from a field of 21,000 nominations. These 32 businesses are all up for the Telstra People’s Choice Award:

Curve Tomorrow, a digital health technology company who works with organisations, clinicians and medical researchers to create life-changing health technology with an ambitious goal to impact the lives of one billion people;

Future Golf, a golf community that has partnered with various golf clubs to give members affordable access to courses and golf events all over Australia;

Nutricare, an innovative business that creates organic, natural adhesive-strip bandages for wounds by using the highest quality, sustainable ingredients available;

TM Insight, a specialist consultancy firm that brings together industry experience in supply chain optimisation, property advisory and project management to help businesses adapt and thrive;

Mollydooker Wines, a McLaren Vale winery making waves in the industry by bringing innovative techniques and an uncompromising commitment to providing exceptional quality wine at an affordable price;

Society Marketing Communications, an Adelaide-based specialist marketing and public relations consultancy firm founded on the promise to deliver business impact for its clients;

Physio Fit Adelaide, a physiotherapy service that helps customers with pain and injury management, and provides injury prevention seminars and workshops to local sports clubs and gyms;

Determined2, a disability service that provides underwater therapy giving participants the chance to experience movements that may otherwise be impossible;

Southern Wild Distillery, a Devonport based distillery which produces spirits, primarily gins, using locally grown and produced ingredients wherever possible;

Kingston Beach Dental, a family-owned and operated practice that provides a range of general, family and cosmetic dental services and is passionate about providing quality and caring dentistry and service with integrity;

Crusader Homes, provides clients with beautifully designed and high-quality homes at a low cost for residents mainly located in the Derwent Valley;

Bridgewater Police & Citizens Youth Club, is a not-for-profit community service organisation that provides a safe environment for youth and the community to enhance their future career and personal development;

Unios, an internationally-recognised architectural lighting company, that simplifies the entire process from design to construction, through an innovative digital platform;

Warmun Art Centre, a community-based enterprise that provides employment and cultural lessons to the public, whilst keeping the Gija culture and language alive and returning all its income to the community;

Work Metrics, a technology company that constructs highly intelligent apps and software tools to help businesses manage and engage their workforce, with an emphasis on safety;

Café Mojo Mundaring, an all-inclusive, community-supporting café that provides a co-working space and values environmentally sustainable practices;

Orbitz Elevators, experts in the supply, installation, maintenance, repair and modernisation of elevators and escalators;

STEM Punks Ventures, a provider of world-leading STEM education programs for students and teachers in primary and secondary schools with learning outcomes linked to the curriculum;

Street Science, creates a range of powerful demonstrations, workshops and stage shows with a focus on engaging and inspiring students to study the senior sciences;

Community Information Support Service, a not-for-profit online platform established to support the health and wellbeing of Australians through connecting individuals to health information and services;

Northern Trade Solutions, a multi-disciplinary subcontractor that aims to reshape the local construction industry by providing an integrated, solutions-focused, multi-trade company to all-size projects;

Dermo Direct, a dermatology clinic offering comprehensive care and on-site treatments for patients who travel from as far as Northern Western Australia and Timor-Leste for consultations;

Universal Site Monitoring, a technology company that produces Australian designed and manufactured safety monitoring devices through Internet of Things technology for industrial businesses;

Bush Medijina, an Indigenous social enterprise that creates unique products, supporting the community by harvesting bush produce and making bush remedies for sale around Australia;

Coordinate Group, a communications and marketing consultancy that provide pro-bono support to not-for-profit, start-up and community groups;

New Level Landscapes, a high-quality landscaping company that tailors projects to client requirements and use, whilst increasing the value of a property;

OzHelp Foundation, a not-for-profit mental health program provider, aiming to implement workforce wellbeing programs in Australian workplaces to reduce the number of suicides in the country;

Water Tight Canberra, a plumbing, drainage and gas-fitting company that provides high quality, interactive service with the use of digital software to keep clients up-to-date and informed;

Sonder, a visionary business that creates a global support network to address personal safety and get help by their side within 20 minutes through the dedicated app;

Shine Drink, a healthy energy drink company that aims to provide a healthy option, helping people stay mentally alert and productive;

Modibodi, a feminine hygiene underwear business that aims to deliver supportive apparel for periods, incontinence and perspiration, while having a positive social impact on humanity and environment;

Dignity, a charity that provides temporary housing and other support services including shelter, jobs and connections, for victims of domestic violence.

Street Science

Voting is now open to cast your vote for the People’s Choice Award and closes on Wednesday 20 November 2019.

The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be announced at a ceremony for the 2019 Telstra Australian Business Awards, in Melbourne on Thursday 21 November 2019.

Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2020: celebrating 25 years of progress

Telstra Business Women's Awards

Posted on September 4, 2019

4 min read

We want to celebrate women in business and thank the many who have paved the way and helped reshape the Australian business landscape for the better. That’s why the Telstra Business Women’s Awards are back for their 25th year.

25 years ago we awarded our first Telstra Business Woman of the Year to Sue Vardon for her work as South Australia’s Department of Correctional Services chief executive officer.

Sue said at the time that the award gave her the confidence, profile and credibility which helped her take the step to set up Centrelink. “It also gave me a chance to acknowledge the many others who had contributed to my success, in particular my mother,” she recalled.

“Most significantly, the awards continue to highlight women who may see themselves as ordinary by acknowledging and showing how extraordinary they are. Other women gain confidence and inspiration from hearing the stories, particularly when they see how others have persisted after hardship.

“They showcase to the larger community that success and excellence is not defined by gender and I know a lot of women are thankful for the path the Awards have helped pave,” said Sue.

Now, when you analyse women in business by the numbers, you quickly identify some key trends. Women now make up more than a third of all Australian business operators and there has been a 46 per cent increase in that number in the past two decades.

To Sue, and the many other trailblazing businesswomen, we say thank you. Thank you for giving other women a female leader to look up to; for not being deterred by the doubters; for standing up, speaking up and lifting other women up.

The progress is encouraging, but we know there remains much to do. The OECD and Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) recognise that women still remain underrepresented as entrepreneurs in this country. Specifically, the PMC identified this as a ‘key concern for policy’.

Corporate Australia also needs more female representation, with the number of women serving on boards at just 20.1 per cent of the ASX 200.

That’s why we want to encourage Australians to back our female leaders in business. We want to showcase and celebrate their great work and reward their tenacity in reshaping how Australia interacts with business.

We’re thrilled to mark 25 years – a quarter of a century of recognising incredible female leaders and progress.

At last year’s awards, an incredible disruptor in the field of aged care was recognised. Natasha Chadwick is the CEO of NewDirection Care at Bellmere. She took out the award in 2019 for forging her own path in a critical industry to better address the quality of aged and dementia care in this country. Natasha said after she won that the process of entering the Telstra Business Women’s Awards allowed her to articulate her mission well.

TBWA 2019 National Business Woman of the Year Award Winner - Natasha Chadwick

“I’ve got a very clear vision and goal of what we want to achieve, and we’ve always had that. Certainly, having to articulate what we want to achieve through the Telstra Business Women’s Awards process has made it even clearer. I now have the validation that we’re on the right track, and the extra encouragement to take NewDirection Care to the next level,” Natasha said at the time.

So what is the next level for NewDirection Care? Natasha says she’s using the Telstra Business Women’s Awards win to help propel her and her company to the international stage.

If you know someone like Natasha, Sue or the countless other incredible women we’ve seen enter the Telstra Business Women’s Awards over the past 25 years, now is your time to nominate for 2020. To nominate yourself or an inspiring businesswoman you know, visit the Telstra Business Women’s Awards nomination website.

2019 Telstra Business Awards finalists announced

Telstra Business Awards

Posted on July 22, 2019

3 min read

After receiving a record 21,000 nominations nationwide, we’re excited to announce the 170 finalists for the 2019 Telstra Business Awards.

Now in its 27th year, the Telstra Business Awards recognise remarkable businesses across four categories: Emerging & Energised, Small & Succeeding, Medium & Making Waves, and Social Change Maker. Overall the judges were impressed by the calibre of the 2019 finalists.

Onya Life is waging a war on plastics.

Among them is Onya Life, which has been part of the global effort to replace single-use plastics since 2004. The Western Australian business has been using recycled materials to provide high-quality, functional, and beautiful reusable products to help individuals reduce their plastic footprint.

Behaviour support for children goes mobile with Tiny Terrors psychology services.

Also a finalist is Tiny Terrors, a mobile psychology service that provides families with compassionate parenting and child behavioural support. Sydney-based psychologist and mother-of-three, Funda Yolal, teaches evidence-based professional techniques and strategies to parents who feel they’ve already tried it all.

Building better videos is at the heart of James and Simon’s digital marketing platform.

Biteable is also a finalist this year. The Tasmanian business provides a digital marketing platform that allows marketers to build videos from a library of professionally designed content. The service allows a novice user to quickly create a new video that looks as if it were made by a professional production agency.

The record number of nominations we’ve received for the program this year alone shows how dynamic the small and medium business industry is in Australia – and how supported they are by their community.

Getting to this stage of the program is an achievement in itself, whether they win or not. In particular, we found that three-quarters of last year’s state finalists saw a spike in activity or business awareness just from taking part in the program.

Babbara Women’s Centre in the NT supports artists by translating textile designs.

We’re incredibly proud to continue to support these organisations year after year. They continue to inspire us with their resilience, courage, incredible commitment, and their ability to find new solutions and ways of working, and this year’s finalists are no exception.

The finalists have been through a rigorous judging process to find the most deserving Australian businesses. They were judged across a broad range of criteria, including: strategy and vision, customers and marketing, operations, people and culture, innovation and technology, social responsibility and financial acumen.

State winners of the 2019 Telstra Business Awards will be announced at celebratory events in states and territories around the country between 5 September and 24 October. State and Territory winners will then be invited to Melbourne for the National Series, including networking events, masterclass, national judging and a national dinner celebration on Thursday 21 November.

For a full list of this year’s state finalists, please visit the Telstra Business Awards website.