Many asylum seekers in Australia are highly skilled professionals, yet remain isolated from the Australian job market. What they lack are networks, people who understand and value their experience and are willing to give advice on how to start their career.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
August 2016 - July 2018
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Inc. (ASRC) is Australia’s largest community-led, not-for-profit organisation providing advocacy, aid and health services for all people seeking asylum.
ASRC members have included veterinary scientists, mechanical engineers, geologists, public health practitioners, university lecturers and many others.
The ASRC Mentoring program, which our Community Program supported, is truly innovative in that it connects asylum seeker professionals with Australian mentors of the same background and industry.
The program provides pathways to employment for work-eligible asylum seekers. The program establishes a one-to-one relationship both online and through quarterly gatherings at the ASRC between skilled asylum seekers and locally based professionals (volunteers) from the same sector. It aims to break down the barriers to employment faced by people seeking asylum including lack of networks, career planning, job-seeking skills and knowledge of the sector.
Key areas covered throughout the program included:
- goal setting and career planning
- navigating professional sectors in Australia
- job searching skills
- resume/cover letter writing
- interview preparation
- sector networking opportunities.
Originally from Egypt, Marian has been in Australia since 2011 and a member of the ASRC since 2012. She has a PhD in accounting, and an extensive background in retail banking and accounting.
As a work-eligible asylum seeker, Marian and her mentor worked together over the 12-month Mentoring Program to identify and establish a pathway to employment.
“The mentoring program helped me to improve my knowledge and build my local experience. It also helped me to change my thoughts and open my eyes about different industries rather than my original career,” Marian says.
Th ASRC Mentoring Program helped Marian gain work outside her area of expertise, and Marian herself proactively sought employment opportunities. She has since gained full-time employment in the real estate industry and has already been promoted!
Veterinarian Community of Practice
While one-on-one partnerships are the core of the Mentoring Program, ASRC also supports groups of professionals to come together in communities of practice.
Mentees and mentors join a group beyond their own pairing to build a bigger network of contacts, a key pathway to employment. Strength in numbers can also open doors that one person can’t.
One of the ASRC mentors, a former Victorian chief veterinary officer, gave a presentation on the Australian veterinary industry, as well as a detailed explanation of the process and requirements to become a registered vet in Australia.
The Veterinarian Community of Practice now works closely with the Department of Veterinary Biosciences and the Melbourne Veterinary School at the University of Melbourne, to conduct veterinary biosciences seminars which the mentees can attend.
Elie completed a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Environmental Technology at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, Rwanda, and subsequently worked in many professional positions.
He was awarded a scholarship and graduated in 2012 from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education with a Master of Science in Environmental Science in the Netherlands.
Elie came to Australia with his family from Rwanda in 2013. After arriving, he found work as a personal care assistant, as well as a cleaner in a hospital for three years.
“During this time, I was always thinking how I could go back to my career. I tried to apply for many professional jobs related to environmental science or civil engineering, but was unsuccessful due to lack of local experience,” Elie says.
To improve his chances of employment in his field and expand his employment opportunities, Elie joined the ASRC Mentoring program. He was successfully matched with his mentor, and together they worked on adapting his professional resume for the Australian workplace.
Although many applications were unsuccessful, Elie persevered.
“My mentor encouraged me to call up and find out the reasons why my application was rejected, to better prepare me for future applications, and she encouraged me to keep on applying,” says Elie.
That perseverance paid off with Elie now employed as a project engineer with Melbourne Water.
“Through the efforts of the mentoring team, combined with his willingness to take a chance on a mentoring partnership … Elie’s journey is a wonderful example of what may be achieved when the courage to adapt to changed circumstances overcomes adversity and is a great success for the Mentoring program.” ASRC Interim Update Report, Feb 2018.
“It is less than a year since I came to Australia. My first goal after arriving was to secure a professional role. It has not been an easy journey and I have had to work extremely hard to achieve the desired outcome. I found out how hard it is to get professional employment, but I persevered. I volunteered for two separate organisations as I had a strong belief that my volunteering experiences would lead me to some sort of professional role that would earn me a salary. After narrowly missing out on a job with one of the big banks, I was very frustrated that with even my best efforts I had not met my first goal.
As a result, I contacted the ASRC Mentoring Program, which I had heard about via other networks. I was accepted into the program and was matched with my mentor within two months! Together my mentor and I worked on developing my professional knowledge, extending my professional networks, improving my job applications, and interview techniques, and adapting them all to meet Australian workplace expectations and practices.
After this I received a series of calls for face-to-face and phone interviews: a sign of professional and personal progress. Following each interview, we discussed the feedback of the interviewers and worked on each point to improve my chances of success.
The path of the mentoring partnership is not always smooth. There may be setbacks, and disappointments. It can be frustrating, and the mentoring partners may disagree about ways to approach different situations.
In a nutshell, this is a story about being resilient, courageous and hardworking even though the journey to a professional role can sometimes be frustrating and at times disheartening for new overseas professionals. The mentoring team encouraged me all the way through the program, even after I secured my first professional role in a bank!
I would like to express my gratitude to all the supportive professionals in the ASRC Innovation Hub, and particularly those in the Mentoring Program. They have been an indispensable part in my search for a professional role in Australia and continue to encourage and support me. I thank you for your constant assistance, care and attention!” David, ASRC Mentoring Program participant
During the two years of Community Program support, 53 participants have graduated from the ASRC Mentoring Program. Many graduates have secured jobs, while others have secured internships, gained professional placements, or gone on to further study.
Importantly, the program has helped participants increase their knowledge and skills in career planning, networking and job searching. Breaking down barriers has been another positive. The program has also been successful in building awareness amongst employers about people seeking asylum and their rights to work.
We have also supported the following ASRC projects: