Australia

Refugee advocate wins Telstra business award for resettlement work

Refugee advocate Violet Roumeliotis has taken out the Telstra businesswoman of the Year award and she says she'll use the prize to amplify the voice of vulnerable Australians.

The daughter of Greek immigrants who spent decades working at not-for-profit agencies has taken out the top prize at the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year awards.

Refugee advocate Violet Roumeliotis won the award for her work helping new arrivals to get jobs and resettle in Australia.

The chief executive of not-for-profit Settlement Services International (SSI) already knows what she'll use the award for.

“It's an opportunity for me to amplify the voice of vulnerable Australians and refugees,” Ms Roumeliotis told SBS News.

Ms Roumeliotis assists refugees to build new lives and to start businesses through her work.

“They don’t speak English, they don’t know the market and they don’t have any capital,” she said.

“They don’t have networks, but somehow they make it work.”

When Ms Roumeliotis started at SSI more than four years ago, the business was generating $9 million a year in revenue. Today, that's grown to over $100 million a year.

“She is not only a fantastic businesswoman proven over thirty years, but she is doing things her way through innovative thinking, determination and a willingness to help people that truly in our society need help,” Chief marketing officer at Telstra and panel judge, Joe Pollard said.

“The fact that a social enterprise won this award just goes to show that this business is no different to any other business that we looked at.”

Ms Roumeliotis won the award ahead of 45 finalists selected out of 4000 entrants.