Dennis is the CEO and founder of Indigenous Employment partners, a not-for-profit organisation that helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples connect with culturally safe employment, training and career pathways.
“We know that work lifts you out of poverty,” said Dennis. “We know that work is the one thing that will help reduce homelessness, reduce family violence, reduce self-harm — all while increasing household income. Being able to do that is really important to us. ”
Dennis started Indigenous Employment Partners with co-founder Sara Stuart because he wanted to make a real difference in people’s lives.
“I spent a lot of time growing the business, working with Aboriginal people and supporting them to get ready for work,” said Dennis.
As the organisation grew, Dennis knew that they needed to go down the path of becoming an incorporated charity. What he didn’t realise was that the process of incorporating was complex and confusing. He spent more time learning about the incorporation process and figuring out what he needed to do than he did helping people.
“Suddenly we were a man down,” said Dennis. With all his time taken up by managing governance, he wasn’t able to do the work he’d set out to do in the first place: helping Indigenous people find long-term employment.
“I had no idea where to start,”
Thankfully, Dennis came into contact with Justice Connect’s Not-for-profit Law team, which specialises in helping community groups and charities understand their governance obligations.
“Community groups have to navigate complex laws,” says Head of Not-for-profit Law, Sue Woodward. “They’re actually more complicated than they are for small business. And yet community groups don’t have access to lawyers to help.”
Dennis spoke with Justice Connect about the requirements his organisation would have to meet to become a charity.
“I had no idea where to start,” said Dennis.
The team at Justice Connect was able to give Dennis the direction he needed, along with advice on which incorporation structure was best for him. Despite being a small organisation, the support Dennis got from Justice Connect allowed Indigenous Employment Partners to reach more people, deliver more services, and connect with partners around Australia.
“The support we got from Justice Connect then allows us to work with people from Darwin, in the Kimberly, or in central New South Wales. It allows us to change people’s lives everywhere. That’s really important to us.”
“We didn’t want to focus on all that other stuff that takes us away from helping people. We wanted to focus on our core business. And Justice Connect helped us to do that.”