Newcomers Network Our Story
By Sue Ellson
Anyone who has been through a major life transition can relate to someone who has moved…
I started work at Westpac Banking Corporation as a Career Recruit 13 days after my final Year 12 exam in 1982. I started a Business Certificate in Banking part time from 1983 to 1985 but left the course because I was always falling asleep in boring classes and was receiving only average passes. The irony was that when I told the bank I couldn’t continue the study (part of the career recruit program), my career accelerated immediately!
I still enjoyed studying, so I completed some personal interest and work related courses part time from 1986 to 1992 (including learning how to type – a great skill I am so glad that I have!). I started looking for a degree that would suit my study style and provide me with a range of subjects and as a ‘mature age student’ at 27, I started a Bachelor of Business in Administrative Management part time by correspondence through the University of South Australia.
After a variety of roles in retail banking, training, projects, recruitment and branch amalgamations with Westpac Banking Corporation, I had to resign to be able to move from Adelaide to Melbourne when I was 28 in 1994. In my first year here, I started a new career, became pregnant, stopped working and hosted regular visitors from interstate. Although I attended a new mother’s group every week, I felt that I had nothing in common with my fellow Melbournians and found it very hard to make new friends and feel settled.
I started reading a lot of books about careers and life purpose whilst continuing part time consulting work. It took several years of soul searching and another baby to help me decide that I wanted an intellectual challenge, to be constantly learning, flexible hours and meaningful work. It also took a long time to find new compatible friends and I felt that if it was difficult for me to do this (as an Australian who can speak English), it must also be difficult for other people.
In 1999, I started general research on what was currently available for people who have moved to Melbourne. The final subject of my degree in 2000 was a research project and the University of South Australia agreed that I could investigate the Expectations, Issues and Realities of people who have moved to Melbourne.
I surveyed 96 people who had moved here within the last five years and received a high distinction for this subject and overall, a place on the Dean’s Merit List and membership of the Golden Key National Honour Society as a result of being in the top 15% of undergraduates. My research supervisor encouraged me to continue developing the newcomer concept after the degree was completed.
In February 2001, I was interviewed on 774AM ABC Radio and finally decided on the name ‘Newcomers Network.’ It was full steam ahead for the launch of a new website in May 2001 – ancient history in terms of websites nowadays!
Newcomers Network was set up as an independent social enterprise because I wanted both men (who particularly want to be ‘anonymous’ and find information confidentially) and women to access the information. My research found that the term ‘not for profit’ was associated with charity by some men and that newcomers would not pay for this information even though they needed it. It could not be funded by government as people from some countries are suspicious of anything to do with government and I wanted to be an independent publisher providing whatever information was useful to newcomers from any source.
So I have relied on my own consulting services, advertising fees and event sponsorships to ensure that most of the information on the website remains free of charge and accessible to anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world.
Newcomers Network now has over 5,000 unique website visitors every month and over 8,000 email newsletter subscribers.
We hosted free monthly Welcome to Sydney and Welcome to Melbourne events every month from the beginning of 2005 and started in Adelaide in July 2007 and Perth and Brisbane in September 2008 right through until November 2015. Newcomers Network has also hosted and coordinated over 90 professional events, functions and forums for newcomers and networkers.
Newcomers Network has supported the Australian Human Resources Institute International Human Resources Management Specialist Area since 2006, the Australian Government’s Living in Harmony Initiative from 2003-2006, was a Finalist in the Corporate Citizenship Category of the Australian HR Awards in 2004, earned a Four Star Business Accreditation from Micronavigator in 2004 and a Highly Commended Award in the Emerging Business Category, Micro Business Awards in 2001.
We have also supported the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition from 2004 to 2008, the Australian Institute of Management International Business Group from 2001 to 2002, and the Cultural Tourism Industry Group in 2001 and 2002.
Newcomers Network has allowed me to advocate for both skilled migrants and Australians returning to Australia, particularly in relation to finding relevant work. I have written a Pre Departure Employment Jobs Kit, Newcomers Career Advice Booklet, Newcomers Kit and Savvy Settlement Kit.
I have established many good relationships across Australia and internationally to help governments, organisations and individuals manage settlement issues more effectively.
I completed another significant research project in 2004, surveying 541 people worldwide in relation to ‘Moving in the 21st Century’ and from this research, created a Newcomers Kit that has been downloaded over 4,000 times.
On 3 January 2017, we published the fifth edition of the Newcomers Network website and for a significant range of internet search queries, we come up in the first one or two pages of organic search results. We offer a range of opportunities for Advertisers and Affiliates.
We have experimented with a number of new technologies (including forums, hosted blogs, RSS feeds etc) but have found that most people value our informative content and the opportunity to connect through our network.
I am regularly asked to provide comments for media articles and stories and quotes for various publications. I have been interviewed on radio several times – both in Australia and on the internet. I have also written many articles and produced many radio programs (150 on the topic of employment for community and commercial radio and two for SBS World View Radio on Australian Citizenship and Cultural Intelligence). I have also been a guest speaker and facilitator at many different events and received various awards and recognition.
All of the content on the existing website has been personally compiled and edited by me.
The various consulting work has seen me facilitating a wide variety of events, forums and strategic planning sessions for a cross section of organizations. I have been involved in supporting a new website project with students at Victoria University and preparing an IT for Settlement Project. I also assisted the Future Focus Group team from the Committee for Melbourne who won the first prize for their ‘Opening Doors Mentoring Program for Skilled Migrants’ Proposal. I am often asked to do background research and prepare reports based on my expertise and findings.
I attend a wide variety of events and you will usually find me in the audience asking questions or making comments about issues related to newcomers and networkers.
I have also utilized my extensive network to assist many individuals and organizations with their goals – including the Australian Government (Living in Harmony and Australian Citizenship campaigns) and Cricket Australia’s Crickids Program. I have also written comprehensive submissions on the topics of Australian Expatriates, Skilled Migrants, Employment, International Students, Multiculturalism, Settlement and Cultural Tourism.
I thoroughly enjoy working in this industry as I am always inspired by the proactive nature of newcomers and their willingness to challenge their existing paradigms in a new environment. I find their stories fascinating, their ideas stimulating and their honesty informative. They are the true pioneers of the century – leaving everything and everyone they know to explore new frontiers, personally and professionally.
The Newcomers Network enterprise and the work I do provides me with constant intellectual enjoyment and I am sure that it will continue for many more years as I still have plenty of ideas that I would like to implement.
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