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By Peter Douglas

The future of Yarra View Nursery looks brighter than ever, with the Victorian Government visiting the site to announce its $5 million Social Enterprise Strategy.
Victorian ministers James Merlino, Wade Noonan, Daniel Mulino and Robin Scott were on-hand for the announcement at the Mount Evelyn site, which they said is a shining example of what can be achieved through social enterprises.
Yarra Valley Nursery is a wholesale nursery which employs around 150 staff, with a high proportion of those staff members living with a disability.
The 12-acre nursery is owned by the not-for-profit Knoxbrooke Enterprises and is renowned for producing high quality plants, with the products supplied to major retail chains as well as the public.
Yarra Valley Nursery produces more than one million plants annually, ranging from ferns and camellias, to fuchsias and bonsai.
Knoxbrooke President Pat Dalton said social enterprises weren’t in the business of asking for hand-outs, so it was great to see the commitment.
“Yarra View Nursery employs about 150 people and, as such, is one of the biggest social enterprises in the state,” he said.
“It cannot achieve its aim unless the business is financially sustainable.
“What is so important and so pleasing about the government’s initiative is the unique appreciation of the challenges we face, that translates into a real commitment.”
The Social Enterprise Strategy identifies key areas for action including increasing the impact and innovation of social enterprise, building business capacity and skills, and improving market access.
The Labor Government will spend $5 million to implement eight key initiatives, which include better connecting the sector, building an online market and improving training opportunities.
A new social procurement framework will also be developed to allow government contracts to purchase goods and services from social enterprises.
The Yarra Valley Nursery announcement was one of several conducted last week around metropolitan and country Victoria.
Mr Merlino (Deputy Premier), Wade Noonan (Minister for Industry and Employment), Robin Scott (Minister for Finance) and Daniel Mulino (Member for Eastern Victoria) enjoyed a tour of the facility.
They took up the chance to meet with staff members and inspect their handiwork.
Mr Noonan said social enterprises had the full support of the Victorian Government.
“Governments, from time to time, can be accused of releasing strategies without any investments to underpin those strategies,” he said.
“We’re very pleased to make an initial $5 million contribution to bring this strategy to life.
“We’re building on the great work that is going on, which allows focus on innovation, research and building recognition for social enterprises in Victoria.”
Mr Merlino said the benefits were in full view at Mount Evelyn.
“Yarra View Nursery in Mount Evelyn is an outstanding example of a social enterprise making a huge difference in the local community – creating jobs for disadvantaged Victorians and producing high-quality plants,” he said.
Ms Scott hoped the funding commitment would allow greater government access to the goods and services of social enterprises.

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