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Celebrating Australia’s Inspiring Refugee and Migrant Entrepreneurs

Australia is home to a vibrant community of refugee and migrant entrepreneurs who have made significant contributions to the country’s business landscape. These individuals have defied all odds, overcoming challenges and creating successful ventures that not only generate economic growth but also make a positive impact on society. In this article, we spotlight eight well-known refugee and migrant entrepreneurs in Australia and celebrate their philanthropy and positive societal impact.

John Hemmes

John Hemmes, a renowned entrepreneur originally from the Netherlands, migrated to Australia and established the Merivale hospitality group. Known for its iconic venues and innovative experiences, Merivale has not only transformed Sydney’s dining and entertainment scene but also actively engaged in philanthropic initiatives. Hemmes was involved in various charitable endeavours across the arts, education and healthcare. He was a patron of the Sydney Blood Cancer Research Institute and was involved in countless charity galas, such as the Silver Party. 

Maha Sinnathamby

Originally from Malaysia, Maha Sinnathamby is the visionary behind the Greater Springfield project. This master-planned community in Queensland has become a thriving hub, providing opportunities for businesses, education, and sustainable living. Sinnathamby’s commitment to social impact is evident through the creation of programs that empower local communities and promote environmental sustainability, as well as his significant philanthropic contributions. Sinnathamby has donated over A$200 million in land and funds for social infrastructure projects and his philanthropy extends to establishing scholarships within Greater Springfield and supporting initiatives that uplift and empower communities. His dedication to philanthropy and commitment to social and environmental sustainability are integral to his work. Maha Sinnathamby’s contributions have left a lasting impact on the community, reflecting his vision as a driving force behind the creation of Greater Springfield. 

Richard Pratt

Richard Pratt, a successful businessman from Poland, established the Visy Industries empire in Australia. Through his leadership, Visy has become a leading packaging and recycling company, actively contributing to a more sustainable future. Pratt was also deeply involved in philanthropy through the Pratt Foundation, which was established in 1978 by Richard and his wife Jeanne. Pratt’s philanthropic efforts spanned medical research, social welfare, aboriginal health, arts, education, and cultural development. His foundation funded numerous projects in Israel, ranging from education to integration, culture, and health. Richard Pratt’s philanthropy left a lasting impact on the community, and his contributions continue to make a difference.

Harry Triguboff

Harry Triguboff, an influential entrepreneur of Chinese descent, is the founder and CEO of Meriton, a prominent property development company in Australia. Triguboff’s contributions to the real estate industry have not only shaped the skyline of major cities but also created countless job opportunities. He has also been actively involved in charitable causes, especially those related to healthcare and education. The Harry Triguboff Foundation, has been an active philanthropist, contributing around A$3 million annually to various causes. His philanthropic efforts focus on supporting education, medical research, the arts, and the general community in Australia. Notably, he funded a project at the Shorashim Center to assist immigrant applicants in proving their Jewishness. Triguboff’s generous contributions and dedication to philanthropy have made a significant impact on numerous charitable endeavors

Tan Le

Tan Le was only 4 years old when she fled Vietnam with her mother and sister, crowded on board a fishing boat with 162 other people, in search of a better life. They found a new home in Victoria, where Tan’s determination and drive led her to pursue higher education. By the time she turned 16, Tan was already immersed in her studies, pursuing law and commerce at Monash University. Her passion for making a positive impact on her community became evident when she received the prestigious title of Young Australian of the Year in 1998. This recognition came as a result of her selfless volunteer work, highlighted by her leadership role as the president of the Vietnamese Community of Footscray Association. In her ever-evolving journey, Tan has since become widely recognized as an entrepreneur with her pioneering venture, Emotiv. Co-founding this groundbreaking electronics company, she has revolutionized the field of electroencephalography (EEG) with their innovative headsets and technology. Today, Tan Le stands as a symbol of resilience and innovation, inspiring others to reach for their dreams and make a lasting impact on the world.

Hedayat (Nick) Osyan

Hat (Nick) Osyan, an extraordinary social entrepreneur, has surpassed all expectations with his remarkable journey to CommUnity Construction. Coming from an ex-refugee background, Nick has firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers in the workforce, including language barriers. Grateful for his new life in Australia, Nick embarked on a mission to give back to the community that has supported him while assisting fellow refugees and asylum seekers. With support from various stakeholders, Nick successfully established himself and his business, now employing refugees, asylum seekers, and providing apprenticeship opportunities. His ultimate goal is to transform lives and empower marginalised communities to lead better lives. Nick’s unwavering passion and determination are the driving forces behind his thriving business and his unique vision for a brighter future.

These inspiring individuals and initiatives represent just a fraction of the incredible contributions made by refugee and migrant entrepreneurs in Australia. Their stories not only highlight their entrepreneurial success but serve as a testament to the potential that lies within every individual, regardless of their background.

As Australia’s commitment to diversity and innovation grows, it becomes increasingly important to acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable achievements of refugee and migrant entrepreneurs. Whether they have created groundbreaking ventures or made a difference in their local communities, these entrepreneurs deserve recognition.

In line with this spirit, the ACU Co-Lab Migrant Incubator Series provides a perfect platform for aspiring migrant entrepreneurs to learn, connect, and thrive. This FREE eight-week, transformative learning program is designed to equip aspiring migrant and refugee changemakers with the knowledge and practical skills needed to turn their innovative ideas into successful businesses. In partnership with Catalysr, industry experts will guide attendees through the process of building and growing a business while offering a chance to win $10,000 through the Migrant Incubator Award. 

The ACU Co-Lab Migrant Incubator Series is more than just a free program; it is a guiding light for the next generation of migrant entrepreneurs. By participating in this series, individuals can embark on their own entrepreneurial journey, turning dreams into reality. 

If you’re a migrant or refugee with a passion for entrepreneurship and a dream of launching your own start-up in Australia, you can learn more about the ACU Co-Lab Migrant Incubator Series here.

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Social Change Central
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