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01 Jul 2016


From the CEO – Cooperation key to creating jobs for refugees

During the recent State Budget, the Government allocated an additional $146 million to health, education, social security and welfare services that aim to support refugee resettlement over the next four years.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis.

This will include $92 million in education funding for school-aged refugees, $32.4 million for specialised health services, $8.4 million for programs including community hubs and school liaisons, and $4 million to support legal aid services.

The funding also includes provisions for a refugee employment triage program, which will give refugees tailored support in their search for work – a move that is in line with the Government’s ongoing push to open up the jobs market for new arrivals.

The Government has also committed to setting aside at least 100 public sector jobs for refugees over the next year, in addition to which it has called on the corporate sector to contribute to improving labour market outcomes for refugees.

This is an important recognition of the critical role that employment plays during the settlement process. Finding a job is essential to individuals achieving their social and economic potential, but this is particularly true of the refugee community, where employment can help to heal the losses that accompany forced migration and often is seen as one of the markers of ‘success’ in a new country.

Refugees can find it hard to break into the labour market, however, due to difficulty with skills and qualification recognition, limited local work experience and low English language proficiency. This makes it doubly important for governments to take affirmative action to smooth the way for refugees to enter the Australian workforce.

SSI is assisting the NSW Government with that aim through a number of partnerships with corporate Australia, including a new relationship with a national supermarket chain.

The partnership, led by the Migration Council of Australia as part of the Friendly Nation Initiative, will create sustainable job opportunities for refugees. SSI – along with our wonderful Queensland partner organisation, Access Community Services – is assisting with appropriate case management support to iron out any teething issues related to the settlement process.

A similar partnership with Allianz is already delivering great outcomes. Earlier this year, the global insurance company employed five refugees who SSI supports, and it expects to launch a second round of recruitment in August that will see it hire an additional five people.

These relationships are a win-win situation. Businesses work with us to improve refugees’ employment prospects, while we support employers to recruit and retain valuable employees who will benefit their businesses in many areas, including by improving workforce diversity.

We’re able to answer employers’ questions about everything from cultural sensitivities to workplace adjustments, while our case management support ensures any issues that occur during the settlement process do not affect an employee’s capacity to deliver in the workplace.

The refugee community is also coming up with solutions to its own employment challenges. One great example of this is Nirary Dacho – a former SSI client who has gone on to co-found Refugee Intern.

The innovative platform, which is supported by SSI’s Ignite Small Business Start-ups initiative, helps newly arrived refugees gain local work experience by pairing up qualified refugees with internship opportunities in areas including IT and engineering.

Refugee Intern was one of many original concepts to come out of the Techfugees Hackathon SSI was involved with last year, which connected developers and entrepreneurs with refugees and people seeking asylum to create solutions for issues including language acquisition, community integration, housing support and employment.

While organisations like SSI are working in partnership with the NSW Government and corporate sector to improve refugees’ employment outcomes, it’s inspiring to see that refugees themselves are there right alongside, working to identify and break down employment barriers.

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