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Deakin aims to bust the employment barrier between refugees and employers

Source: Courtesy of Deakin University

Deakin University has launched a guide for Australian employers to help them hire people from refugee and asylum seeker background.

Deakin University’s Centre for Refugee Employment, Advocacy, Training and Education (CREATE) has launched a 10-page guide that helps Australian employers better understand the visas held by refugees and asylum seekers and their work rights.

The “first-of-its-kind guide” is created based on the findings of a study conducted by Deakin University together with Monash University and Australia National University examining “why some organisations actively employ people from a refugee background and others do not.”

Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander has described the project as an example of how universities could help refugees to gain their career objectives.

"Globally, we are facing the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to help,” said Professor Hollander.

“I know through the work of Deakin CREATE we will continue to support people from a refugee background to obtain meaningful employment and access vocational training and education”, she said.

CREATE director and Associate Dean (International) at Deakin’s Faculty of Business and Law Professor Alexander Newman says the guide is designed to bust the employment barrier between employers and “one of Australia’s most vulnerable groups”.

Presentation in a conference room
CREATE director Professor Alexander Newman says “People with a refugee background often bring new ideas and perspectives into an organisation"
Getty Images

“Many organisations assume hiring refugees is fraught with challenges and barriers, when, in fact, the large majority of people from a refugee and asylum seeker background are entitled to work in Australia”, Mr. Newman said.

“I really encourage employers to rethink their hiring practices to support the employment of refugees.”

Working through specialist employment agencies

Ali* is an Afghan asylum seeker who arrived to Australia by boat in 2013 and was granted a temporary protection visa with full work rights.

Having a Bachelor of Computer Applications from Afghanistan and an MBA from India, Ali struggled to find a job in his profession area because of the lack of local experience and employers uncertainty about his work rights.

Finally, through a non-for-profit organisation helping refugees seeking professional careers, Career Seekers, he managed to get a 12-week internship with a financial services company. The employer’s satisfaction with his work got him another 12-week extension and then a 12-month contract.

Ali remembers his first day at the company where he was stressed and confused about learning the skills, but with the support of others, he has learned those skills and feels confidant now.

“I am very lucky that I am in this great country and I feel very humbled to have been given this fantastic opportunity,” he said.

Professor Newman says working through specialist employment agencies has helped employers “to better integrate people from a refugee background into their workforce.”

“They are usually skilled and capable individuals who hold qualifications and practical experience in their home country. They are highly motivated to learn and build up practical experience in Australia,” he added.

“People with a refugee background often bring new ideas and perspectives into an organisation too. Research on diversity suggests that more diverse workplaces typically have higher levels of innovation, productivity and staff retention.”