Hope and Opportunity

by Ruth Moraes

Over the last several months the Justice and Peace Office has been working with the House of Welcome and the Jesuit Refugee Service to assist their clients into employment. As many of you will know many people who are seeking protection in Australia face several barriers to gaining employment. 

These include a lack of Australian work experience and referees, the difficulty in getting certain overseas qualifications recognised here, physical health considerations, and constraints around language and childcare responsibilities. Despite this, I keep hearing from the employment teams at the Jesuit Refugee Service and the House of Welcome how resilient their clients are and how eager they are to work. 

A research report released this week by the Edmund Rice Centre entitled Refugee Employment Experience: Struggles, Strategies and Solutions confirmed these findings. Informed by the voices of people who have sought protection here, the report also recommended that government programs designed to assist refugees in finding employment need to provide more tailored support and create more opportunities for work, instead of just training.

Over the last few weeks I have also been encouraged to hear success stories of people seeking asylum finding employment in Australia and the benefits to them and their employers. It is encouraging to hear of stories like Moj’s who describes how he went from having no hope to indescribable happiness after he was offered a job. His employers were so impressed with him that they offered him a full-time permanent job. 

House of Welcome’s Work and Welcome employment program is a workplace giving program that supports participant placements short-term employment in areas that match their skills and prior work experience form their home country. Miri, a participant in the Work and Welcome program said “My placement at Loreto Normanhurst went above and beyond my expectations … The generosity of the staff through the Workplace Giving program meant I could earn a wage, put food on the table and look after myself financially.”

Several participant organisations in the Work and Welcome program have also been so pleased with their work placements that they have offered them permanent work.  A representative from St Patrick’s College, another participant organisation in the program said, “The people we have hosted have contributed enormously to our school, so much so that we never want to say good-bye. Our only hope is that we have given them a gift which helps them in their future – something so small for us and so big for them.”

Tamana Mirzada, the Employment Coordinator at the Jesuit Refugee Service remarked, “It’s been very rewarding to see the impacts of employment on the people we are working with. It proves again how positive lives can be influenced as there is a greater of agency from working. However, this can only be done when opportunities are offered and accessible for refugees and people seeking asylum”.

If you are in a position to employ someone from an asylum seeking background please get in touch with Tamana Mirzada, Employment Coorinator, Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (tamana.mirzada@jrs.org.au) or Leonie Dyer, Employment Services Manager, House of Welcome (l.dyer@houseofwelcome.com.au).