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02 Jun 2023


Refugee salon owner rebuilds career from apprentice to successful business owner in Australia

When Iranian-born Mary Logan sought refuge in Australia, she hoped to continue her work in hair and beauty. However, her overseas experience and qualifications were not recognised, forcing the salon owner and manager to begin again as an apprentice.

SSI Refugee Week 2023 case study, Mary Logan, doing a beauty treatment on a client

For more than 15 years, Mary dedicated herself to a career in beauty, but in 2017, after coming to Australia as a student, she was forced to seek refuge to ensure a safer future for her 14-month-old daughter.  

In Australia, Mary discovered that her qualifications, skills, and experience obtained overseas were not recognised or valued, a common challenge faced by refugees and migrants. 

“It wasn’t easy to get a job. So many barriers stood in my way. I had to effectively translate my professional identity to fit into my new country. This involved navigating a different language, culture, and learning new techniques, tools, and rules,” she said. 

“I went from being a manager and proud salon owner to a hair washer. It was emotionally challenging for me. But I was under so much pressure to earn money and survive. I just had to deal with it.” 


SSI Refugee Week case study and SSI Ignite client, Mary Logan, in her beauty salon

Despite these setbacks, Mary was determined to study to get locally recognised qualifications and adapt to the practices of Australian salons, including a new language and industry slang. 

“I had learned a bit of English in Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) classes, but what I was hearing in the salon was completely different,” she said. 

“I was so confused. One customer would use the word iron, whilst others used straightener, and some asked for a GHD. I was left wondering, ‘What does GHD mean?’” 

Mary diligently worked to master the salon terminology while on the job, but at the same time, found herself forced to work multiple casual jobs that offered little stability, leaving her in a precarious situation.  

After completing her studies in skincare and beauty and gaining years of experience working in Australian salons for bosses who often mistreated her, Mary decided to venture out on her own as a beauty and eyebrow specialist in 2021. 

With the support of the Ignite® Small Business Start-Ups program, run by SSI, Mary successfully established her own business, Mary Logan Beauty. 

“I’m proud to be a single mum, business owner, and financially independent. I hope to be a role model for my daughter, but also for other newly arrived young women in Australia. Although the journey hasn’t been easy, if I can overcome these challenges, they can too.” 

SSI Ignite client, Mary Logan

When reflecting on her journey building a career in Australia, Mary has a powerful message for employers and the government alike.  

“Skilled refugees had professions and worked hard in their home countries. We have experienced hardships and know how to rebuild our lives from scratch. We bring unique skills and perspectives. You just need to lower the barriers, provide employment opportunities, and trust in our abilities to get the job done,” she said. 

Mary encouraged Australian employers and government to allow newcomers to build our economy, “Australia needs skilled and experienced professionals who are hoping to lead productive lives in this free country.” 

“I believe many refugees in Australia aspire to have a stable life, pursue careers, and earn their own incomes rather than rely on social welfare. They just don’t have the opportunity to live normally.” 

“I waited seven years for my visa – this is such a huge gap in my life. We are refugees, but we are still human. We have a life to live. Please don’t waste it.” 


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