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25 Oct 2022


Former NATO worker and refugee helps welcome newcomers whilst pursuing his dreams

Afghan refugee Zabiullah Ahmadzai, a former NATO employee, recalls his first experience of Australia. Fearing for his family’s safety, Mr Ahmadzai left his home with five family members, arriving here in January this year.

Zabiullah Ahmadzai (right) with SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis and Minister Alister Henskens MP.
Zabiullah Ahmadzai (right) with SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis and Minister Alister Henskens MP.

The family received a warm welcome from SSI staff, which helped cushion some of the feelings of extreme culture shock. Australia was nothing like Afghanistan!

However, fast forward nine months and Mr Ahmadzai has made great strides forward – being able to give back to refugees like himself through a job at SSI, while pursing future goals to start his own business.

“When I arrived in Australia, I was welcomed by the SSI team,” he recalled. “They picked my family up at the airport and they helped us get a Medicare card.

“We had a case manager who helped us with housing and another who helped with job applications.”

As with all refugees, he faced a number of challenges adjusting to his new life but was keen to find a job.

“I wanted to be an active, contributing member of the Australian workforce,” he said.

The 27-year-old was well qualified.

He had worked as a Finance and Budget Manager with NATO forces, providing administrative support to the Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense. He held a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and had completed two semesters of Masters in Business Administration.

However, he had to get these skills recognised in Australia and with no professional network here, he needed help navigating the local jobs market.

So Mr Ahmadzai was referred to SSI’s Refugee Employment Support Program. It was here that he gained knowledge of Australia’s work culture and environment, was assisted with job interview skills, supported to get a local drivers’ licence and shown how to navigate local public transport.

He learned how to get his overseas qualification recognised and how to apply for jobs online.

Along the way, Mr Ahmadzai obtained a job as an SSI Employment Facilitator, where he gets to provide job support to Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians and other refugees.

“I know what it feels to arrive in a new country. It is not like Afghanistan or Iraq, it is a completely different culture,” he said.

“I am doing the same thing for clients that SSI did for me.

“It feels good to have this job, and I am very proud.”

However, this will be a short-term role as Mr Ahmadzai has longer term plans.

He has recently enrolled in a three-year construction certificate and has ambitions to start his own construction business.

“There are not enough words to express my thanks for SSI,” he said.

“They do so much to help us as newly arrived people to Australia.

“They are like the father and mother, holding people’s hands, and I really appreciate their work.”

Mr Ahmadzai was assisted by two SSI programs.

The Humanitarian Settlement Services Program is delivered early in the settlement process and provides refugees and humanitarian entrants with essential support and information to help them settle successfully in Australia. The program is funded by the Australia Government Department of Social Services. For more information about Australia’s settlement program, visit Home Affairs.

The Refugee Employment Support Program is an initiative of the NSW Government that addresses the challenges experienced by refugees and people seeking asylum in finding suitable and skilled employment opportunities.


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