our founder’s story

Our Founder's Story - The beginning

At the age of 45, as a medical doctor and a communication expert, Luz Restrepo arrived in Australia in 2010 seeking political asylum. Her life was in tatters and she spoke no English. She felt like a nobody: frightened, isolated and disempowered. Luz soon discovered that she was not alone. 

In 2011, along with a group of 25 women experiencing similar challenges, Luz began to make and sell crafts around Melbourne. She understood that to support each other is also to strengthen each other. 

SisterWorks Inc. was born in May 2013 when a committee of volunteers joined Luz with legal, fund-raising, marketing and administrative skills to give support and structure to the project.

    Who we are

    SisterWorks is a not-for-profit social enterprise, based in Melbourne.

    Through work and entrepreneurship, our mission is to support women who are refugees, asylum seekers or migrants to improve their confidence, mental wellbeing and sense of belonging.  

    Our Vision: An Australia where all migrant women are given the opportunities to become economically empowered.

    Work Empowers Women - Our Model

    The SisterWorks’ model – Work Empowers Women – runs flexible dual programs, where women are ‘learning by doing’ and discover how to work effectively in Australia. Earning money is a key element that encourages women to improve their personal development and ensure social, emotional and economic participation while developing English literacy and business skills.  More importantly, the women gain confidence, empowering them to develop skills to address and manage present challenges and barriers that otherwise prevent them from accessing individual pathways to employment, entrepreneurship, further education and community connectedness. 

    The SisterWorks Empowerment Hub is a child-friendly space which provides a supportive environment to empower women. SisterWorks brings women together in a safe space to learn, experience, share, support and grow through face to face and safe digital platform education and knowledge sharing. Our Empowerment Hub has Four Pillars supported by an integrated program of social, design and business mentors: 

    • Design Lab – a workshop program run by professional volunteers designed to help women learn the skills to develop their own high-quality products. The Design Lab fosters the development of excellent skills in production lines, professional service and collaborative teamwork. 

    • Cooking Lab – a commercial kitchen provides women with end-to-end food production knowledge, transferable business skills and mentoring support.

    • Work Lab – helps women learn the fundamentals of retail sales and supply chain distribution channels. SisterWorks has two retail stores in Richmond and South Yarra, several pop-up shops, SisterWorks online shop and corporate and wholesale orders. 50% of the gross sales profit goes back to the women who make the product, promoting economic sustainability for women.  

    • Business Hub – assisting women with the navigation of pathways to education, productive employment, entrepreneurship and leadership in Australia.

    Together we are strong - Present and Future Plans

    To date, we have supported more than 492 women from 56 different countries. To increase the number of migrant and refugee women empowered to access opportunities in the workforce, SisterWorks is starting to share its model into other Victorian regions. New partners and Sisters are joining our SisterWorks Family in Dandenong, Bendigo and Carringbush.

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