Download the FREE SBS Radio App for a better listening experience
Over the last seven decades close to a million refugees resettled in Australia. More social enterprises are offering a new start with job opportunities.
The world is experiencing the most significant humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II with 65 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.
19-year-old Pemba Tshulembo’s journey as a refugee began on the day her father’s political rivals stormed into his funeral.
“The reason why I left Congo was that of my dad’s political rivals. Moreover, so after his death, we were forced to leave Congo because it wasn't safe for us anymore. On the day of his funeral, there were people there to cause fights. However, it wasn’t safe for us because we were young,’ says Tshulembo.
Pemba had already lost her mother in a car accident.
She and her three siblings had no choice but to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo for Kenya where they stayed for five years.
She recalls, ‘Well, it wasn’t still safe, but it was better than DRC. Once my cousin got attacked, and we believe it was from the people that were still after us so we were not allowed to go outside and play because we never know one of us may be kidnapped or something bad could happen to us.’
Pemba was over the moon when she received news that she could resettle in Australia even though she knew nothing about the country.
‘It was like a new life for me. I felt like it was an opportunity that… it was just so good…like…I even cried, I couldn't believe that it’s me here,’ says Tshulembo.
Paul Power is the Chief Executive Officer of the Refugee Council of Australia. He says Australia has accepted over 880,000 refugees in the past seven decades.
The organisation is working to draw attention to the needs of refugees worldwide and recognise their contributions to Australia.
According to him, ‘People who have been refugees according to statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are more likely to establish and run their small businesses employing other people than people from any other migration category or Australian-born people. In the long run, Australia benefits from those humanitarian acts.’
With close to a million refugees resettled in Australia over the last seventy years, the country is expecting to welcome around 18,000 more in the coming year.
Queensland-based Access Community Services provides a range of resettlement services to help bring refugees back on their feet.
Chief Executive Officer Gail Kerr says the organisation supports refugees who speak little English and have no former job experience to develop new skills in paid work placements.
Gail Kerr explains how Spice Exchange, a social enterprise established by Access Community Services, is turning every-day skills into job opportunities.
‘So, we’ve worked with a group of women to develop 5 key spices, and then we’ve helped those women develop a business model using those spices but it’s also taking women then through the process of how you might start your own business or work in a food environment, what’s the health and safety issues and then helping them find the career and employment pathway that is associated with the food industry or generally just building their confidence to go for jobs out in the marketplace.’
Many of the refugees are women who were forced to leave home under dangerous circumstances.
Harmony in Carmody is another social enterprise founded by Access Community Services.
‘This is a social purpose café, and we run it as a business but the people that come through and train are those people that are looking for a job, and we use that as a realistic training environment - teaching them the skills of working in a café, making coffees, customer service, and again it’s all about developing language skills and real pathways about what the world of work looks like and how do you go for those jobs once you have got those skills in place,’ Kerr explains.