RISE Project


Realise. Inspire. Support. Energise. (RISE) is a visionary project that aims to build pathways to leadership for women from culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) backgrounds. It is designed to identify and break down systemic barriers and to assist organisations in supporting women in middle management to reach senior leadership positions within their organisations.

RISE is a collaborative project between Diversity Council Australia (DCA), Settlement Services International (SSI) and Chief Executive Women (CEW) and is funded by the Australian government Office for Women through the Women’s Leadership and Development Program (WLDP) 2022-2026.

The RISE project is working with 25 organisations across Australia to implement organisational change interventions that will help address systemic and organisational barriers for CARM women. The RISE project will work with up to 15 women from each of the 25 organisations to support their progression to leadership positions.

Why do we need the RISE project?

We know that CARM women face structural barriers when it comes to career advancement. DCA’s research over the last 6 years has shown that CARM women in leadership in Australia are few and far between as systemic barriers remain in place. The research highlights that whilst CARM women are ambitious, capable, and resilient, they still experience a range of entrenched systemic barriers in Australian workplaces such as:

  • Not having their voices or lived experience centred,  
  • being assessed against biased leadership models, and
  • not having access to influential social networks where promotion decisions are often made.  

This is why the RISE project is working with organisations and CARM women to support them in designing and implementing lasting organisational change interventions that will address the root causes of the barriers that CARM women face.

Collaborate to create change!

By partnering with RISE, 25 participating organisations will gain access to the 6 change elements below:  

  • An Organisational Self-Assessment Tool, completed by an internal project team (which can include Human Resources and Diversity and Inclusion practitioners) and 15 CARM women in middle management in each organisation. The tool will diagnose key systemic barriers locking CARM women middle managers out of leadership.  
  • An Action Plan Template, which provides a strategic framework for organisations to create their own strategic action plan. DCA will provide high level support with creating the action plan and organisations will drive the implementation of the plan. Organisations will also be able to take part in a community of practice with other participating organisations. 
  • DCA’s Racism at Work training program, which provides anti-racism training aimed at stimulating nuanced, critical, and reflexive ways of understanding systemic racial barriers. 
  • SSI’s Cultural Responsiveness training program, which explores sustainable ways to navigate a diversity of cultures in the workplace. 
  • A Support Model for advancing CARM Women’s leadership skills, which will provide 15 CARM women in each organisation with coaching, mentoring, sponsorship, and a career advancement plan, so they can better leverage their leadership skills and progress in their careers.  
  • CEW’s Leadership Development training program, which builds leadership capacity and provides opportunities for networking and membership connections, including an invitation to the CEW Connect community.   

Phase 1 of RISE underway

Phase 1 of the RISE project is now well underway, and we are excited to share the names of some of the organisations who have committed to breaking down barriers and building pathways to senior leadership positions for CARM women.

  • Accenture
  • Gilbert + Tobin
  • HCF
  • Telstra
  • Uniting NSW.ACT

These organisations will use a purpose-built self-audit tool to assess their organisation’s racial literacy which will inform a tailored 12-month action plan for each organisation, including built-in training from DCA and SSI on anti-racism and cultural responsiveness respectively.

Applications for Phase 2 now closed

If you missed out on applying, but are interested in learning more, please download the information pack below.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to email us at rise@dca.org.au

Please note that due to the high volume of applications and onboarding process, there will be a delay to our responses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligibility details for organisations can be found here.

At this time, government organisations and agencies are not eligible to participate in the RISE project however we encourage you to submit your interest for other opportunities that may be available. If you’re unsure as to whether your organisation is eligible, please contact rise@dca.org.au.

Applications close on 3 May, 2024 and given the amount of interest we’ve had in the RISE Project, we anticipate contacting successful applicants by mid to late May 2024.

Not at all. Our target for each organisation is 15 CARM women from middle management, however if you have slightly more or slightly below, we would still encourage you to apply. We would also encourage you to add details of other CARM women from lower-level roles in your application.

The RISE Project is designed to identify and address systemic barriers within participating organisations, so unfortunately there is no individual-only component. If you are interested in the project, please approach your organisation to see if they would be interested and eligible to submit an application

As a participating organisation, your financial investment will be approximately $7,000.00. This includes DCA’s Racism at Work virtual training and SSI’s Cultural Responsiveness training for the 15-30 key members of staff. There are add-on options available at additional cost if you wish to undertake the training for the entire organisation (which we highly recommend).  

This approximate amount does not include the Chief Executive Women Leaders program for CARM women participants as this is an ‘opt-in’ activity, or any other activities or initiatives we may recommend to you as part of your 12-month action plan.

  • Internal Project team 

We recommend that participating organisations create an internal project team. This team would liaise with CARM women participants and be the key point of contact with DCA’s RISE Senior Project Manager (rise@dca.org.au). The internal project team’s estimated time commitment is 1-4 hours a week.

  • CARM Women Participants 

Individual participants will be asked to attend an Introduction session (which can be delivered online, depending on the business needs of the Participating Organisation). The estimated time commitment for this session is 1-2 hours.

Participants will also be provided opportunities to meet with mentors. We estimate these sessions to be one hour in length. It is up to the participant and their mentor should they want to have additional sessions. This, of course, will affect the time commitment. Based on a pre-program survey (which participants complete at the outset of the project), SSI will provide a career advancement plan for each participant. This plan is created in consultation with the participant and will include various career advancement opportunities. The time commitment for each career advancement plan will vary across participants depending on the number of activities they wish to undertake.

For more information, please refer to the RISE Information Pack here.

Our Partners

“Women face unique challenges and often have to work harder to achieve goals and overcome societal and cultural barriers that are placed in our way. This is further magnified for CARM women, who are strong, resilient and determined but face additional barriers to attaining senior leadership programs in Australia related to language, race and culture. SSI's own research shows migrant women from low- and middle-income countries and refugee women have greater or similar levels of education to women born in Australia yet are more likely to be employed in roles below their education and experience. “From both a social and economic point of view, it makes sense to invest in both, developing the potential of CARM women and addressing barriers by employers, to ensure they are equipped to overcome the gender, cultural and racial barriers they face.”

– Quotes attributable to Sonia Vignjevic, Acting CEO, Settlement Services International

“CEW's core purpose is "women leaders empowering all women” and we continuously strive to realise a vision that sees diverse women leaders at every decision-making table. The case for change is clear: diverse leadership is good for business. It delivers enhanced performance, stronger innovation, and increased retention. By increasing female participation in the workforce, we will address the critical economic and societal issues facing Australia today, for the benefit of everyone.

The RISE program will play an active role in empowering women from culturally and racially marginalised backgrounds with access to CEW's Leadership Development programs, providing them with the space and opportunity to learn, build new networks, and accelerate their leadership journey."

– Quotes attributable to Marie Festa, CEO, Chief Executive Women

Register your interest now to be part of this transformative project.