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23 Jun 2023

Opinion

From the CEO: Unleashing the economic potential of refugees and migrants

Now a successful business owner, Mohsen’s story has a happy ending, and on World Refugee Day, he joined with SSI, our partners and other people with lived experience to call for the implementation of five barrier-breaking solutions that would ease the way for newcomers like Mohsen can realise their full potential.

At our World Refugee Day Fair on June 20, we hosted parliamentarians, employers and community partners on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra to launch of the Billion Dollar Benefit report: a roadmap for unleashing the economic potential of refugees and migrants.

We were pleased so many friends and partners were present to formally accept the report, which SSI produced in partnership with the Settlement Council of Australia, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils, and Community Corporate. You can see some of our highlights from this special day here.

The Billion Dollar Benefit report draws on consultation with 50 experts and people with lived experience, which identified five priority solutions to unleash the potential of migrants and refugees. These include:

  1. We must fix the broken skills and qualifications recognition system. Australia’s current system is complex, time-consuming and bureaucratic.
  2. We need to strengthen protections for migrant workers. No single person should control both your passport and your paycheck – it’s a recipe for exploitation.
  3. We must review the right to work for people on temporary visas. Denying work rights can increase reliance on social welfare and leave individuals vulnerable to exploitation.
  4. We need to scale innovative ‘tripartite’ partnerships. Investing in partnerships among the public, private and NGO sectors would provide wrap-around employment solutions for newcomers to Australia.
  5. We must reform English language requirements. English language requirements must be fit for purpose and aligned with the role and industry.

These actions would provide sustainable employment pathways for newcomers to Australia. They would also plug critical skills gaps and add billions to our economy.

After arriving in a new country, gaining work is one of the most effective ways newcomers can rebuild their lives. However, refugees and migrants face significant hurdles to finding meaningful employment and are at greater risk of exploitation.

Breaking down barriers for our newcomers is a responsibility shared by employers, non-government organisations, unions, refugee-led organisations, and all levels of government.

It was heartening to see representation from across these sectors, with a strong appetite for change.

How you can help

You can show your support by endorsing this roadmap by sharing the findings on social media, and other communications channels or having a conversation with people around you.

If your organisation would like to endorse the report, please send your organisation’s logo to Dane Moores, SSI’s Head of Strategic Relations, at dmoores@ssi.org.au.

We thank everyone who has supported our efforts so far and we look forward to welcoming more organisations and individuals into this community committed to building better futures for Australia’s refugees and migrants.

Together, we can ensure that newcomers have equal opportunities for meaningful economic participation and the chance to realise their full potential in their new homes.

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