Investing in our communities

We understand that our centres need strong communities in order to succeed. Our aim is to shape better communities by strategically supporting issues that impact both our centres and their local communities.

In FY16, we identified youth (aged 13-25) disengagement and unemployment as an important issue that impacts the communities in which we operate right across Australia, as well as the amenity and performance of our centres.

We also found this to be an issue which Vicinity can make a meaningful difference to through our day-to-day business activities.

In FY17, we established a targeted community investment program to collectively address this issue at a corporate level and at our centres.

The program is implemented through a national partnership with the Beacon Foundation and various local partnerships to address youth disengagement and unemployment specific issues within each catchment.

Partnership with Beacon Foundation

In FY17, Vicinity entered into a three-year partnership with the Beacon Foundation to help deliver our community investment program.

Beacon was selected via a competitive process, through which Vicinity sought a partner with a broad presence across Australia, specifically with programs in locations where we have centres, and a proven track record of creating a positive impact on the issue of youth disengagement and unemployment.

Beacon’s programs mobilise secondary schools, parents, businesses and communities to work together to support young people into employment by making school more industry-relevant.  Their philosophy aims to make school more engaging, so that students complete secondary school and set themselves

up for future success in securing long-term meaningful employment.

Beacon primarily operates in disadvantaged communities and areas of high youth unemployment, where the risk and need are often the greatest. With programs at secondary schools in proximity to our network of centres, the partnership allows our corporate and centre staff to get involved in Beacon programs and inspire youth to successfully transition from school to employment.

Vicinity’s partnership with Beacon is focused around three main programs, as shown below: 

Community investment program

Our community investment program is rolled out across the portfolio through the establishment and implementation of centre level community investment plans.  This enables the program to be delivered in a consistent manner across our portfolio, with built in flexibility to identify strategically relevant local partnerships through which to address catchment specific root causes of youth related issues, which can vary from centre to centre.

Vicinity’s Sustainability team conducts annual community workshops with centre teams across the country to provide support and guidance on the development and execution of these plans.  They are then included in our annual centre strategic asset planning process to ensure the initiatives identified to address disengaged and unemployed youth related issues form part of the centres’ overall operational strategy.

In FY20, 78% of our centres developed community investment plans.

Our community contribution

As key economic and community hubs, we leverage the unique position that our centres hold locally to support those in need.

Each of our centres maintains close connections with community groups to support Vicinity’s focus on addressing youth disengagement and unemployment in their local communities, as well as other issues that are relevant to their catchment. They organise and participate in local events, make financial contributions, provide in-kind goods, services and mall space for fundraising, and also leverage our consumers and retailers to make community initiatives more successful.  

In FY19, we continued to broaden our multifaceted support of programs that address youth disengagement and unemployment through our company-wide community investment program to achieve a collective, greater impact.

 

Vicinity's community contribution in FY20 ($)

 

We benchmark our community investment activities using the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) framework. Click here to view our LBG reports.

Case Study: Connecting unemployed youth with retailers

 

Jobs Fair at Northland Shopping Centre, VIC

After the initial success of a jobs fair held at the Northland Shopping Centre in 2016, a national jobs fair program was established and piloted across 14 centres in 2018 to support local employment and assist our retailers to more easily onboard staff to support retail peaks associated with the Christmas period. This initiative recognises that the retail sector is a key entry point for people into the workforce, and our centres are uniquely positioned to connect local job seekers with our retailers.

During August and September 2019, Vicinity held its second national jobs fair program at 19 centres across our portfolio, attracting thousands of jobs seekers. A number of jobs fairs were coupled with job readiness workshops, targeted at youth and delivered in partnership with local community groups, which provided valuable job readiness training, interviewing and presentation skills to young people transitioning into the workforce and seeking roles in the retail sector.

Due to COVID-19, we have suspended the jobs fairs program for the immediate future, particularly in Victoria, but look forward to reinstating them as soon as we are able as they bring significant and broad benefits to our retailers and our communities.

Case study: Social Return on Investment – Beacon Partnership

During FY20, we completed the third year of our national community partnership with Beacon Foundation, through which we deliver our community investment program focused on unemployed and disengaged youth.

This year, for the first time, we had an external assessment undertaken to evaluate the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of our partnership with Beacon Foundation. The SROI measured the external value created as a result of Vicinity’s funding of Beacon Foundation’s programs over the previous three years, including enhanced education outcomes, improved employment chances and better life outcomes for the participating youth.

The analysis found that for every $1 Vicinity has invested in Beacon’s programs since January 2017, there has been a positive ongoing economic benefit to the community of more than $22 each year, an exceptional outcome for the young people participating and for society more broadly.

The partnership has also benefited Vicinity team member engagement and productivity levels, and there is increased local community awareness of the broader benefits of the Vicinity/Beacon partnership.

The SROI has assisted us to better understand and quantify our social impact through our Beacon partnership and identify opportunities to further improve our positive impact on unemployed and disengaged youth in the future.

 

Case study: Supporting our communities during the bushfires

During the Australian bushfire emergency in summer 2019/2020, Vicinity organised and implemented a wide range of initiatives to lend our support to bushfire-affected communities across Australia.

Our contributions to the bushfire relief stand at more than $730,000 in value and main activities include:

  • immediate direct cash donation of $250,000, split between the Salvation Army and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, with the aim of supporting the immediate response and the longer-term rebuilding of impacted communities
  • collection of more than $13,000 in donations via a national fundraiser on behalf of the Salvation Army and state-based fire authorities in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, through our customer service desks
  • matched more than $48,000 donations made by Vicinity employees
  • supporting the retailer-led bushfire fundraising campaign ‘All In’ via a donation of $18,000 to the Salvation Army, which is equivalent to one day’s rent of participating retailers with tenancies in our centres, and
  • undertook a Thank You campaign to enable members of the community to express their written appreciation towards fire fighters and first responders.

 

During FY20 we raised over $730,000 for bushfire relief.

 

 

Case study: Vicinity’s Grand Plaza centre proactively tackling in-centre youth issues

Vicinity’s Grand Plaza shopping centre in Queensland has historically observed loitering and anti-social behaviour by local youth. Previous approaches focused on immediate security responses had not been effective in reducing longer-term anti-social behaviour.

In late 2017, the centre adopted a more balanced and community focused approach to dealing with troublesome youth, which included collaboration across our security contractor and various local stakeholders, and enabled the delivery of several community programs, including,

  • Inviting Maori elders to the centre to have informal talks with Maori youth known to cause issues at the centre, and with security personnel to share insights on preventing future incidents;
  • Centre management staff meeting with security personnel and the local police regularly to discuss strategies to deal with crime;
  • Hosting invitation-only barbeques for local youth, including those that have a history of causing issues at the centre, with members of the local police, council, youth justice and other stakeholders.
  • Centre’s security manager attends monthly meetings with community groups and schools to keep abreast of programs to which local youth can be referred; and
  • Centre’s Operations Manager sits on the Logan & Beaudesert Community Investment Committee, and attends Browns Plains Collaboration Stakeholders Meeting to discuss youth engagement in the area.

During FY20, the centre partnered with the not for profit Yourtown to deliver an interactive an educational YOUth Matter program, aimed at improving engagement of and support to young people accessing the centre.

The nine-week program tailors to individuals engaged in the program and provides access to core life skills and personal development workshops.  Community guest speakers, including centre management representatives and retailers, address the group to build young people’s connection to local opportunities and support services. Participating youth are also supported by a case manager throughout the program and beyond.

To date, Grand Plaza has seen 17 young people successfully complete the program with three participants finding employment (one with a retailer at the Centre) and one reengaging at school. Additionally, the centre hosted an Indigenous school-based trainee at the centre management office one-day a week for a period of 12 months in FY20, providing them with exposure to a wide range of centre management functions, including operations, marketing, leasing and customer service.

Vicinity’s annual survey of consumers to understand perceptions of youth issues across our assets nationally showed that Grand Plaza’s approach is helping to improve the overall performance of the centre. In the FY20 survey, consumers observed incidents of youth skipping school decreasing and local awareness of the centres programs to tackle youth issues increased. In that time, annualised foot traffic has also increased at the centre, which may in part be related to Grand Plaza’s proactive youth program as we know from our annual survey results that youth issues at our centres can sometimes be a deterrent for consumer visitation.

Vicinity has developed and is now implementing a Sustainability Security Toolkit, which helps our centres effectively address youth issues, through both improved security response and positively engaging local youth in centre activities in collaboration with local partners.