In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Today we’re looking at some of the issues that Asylum Seekers and Refugees face in the area of Employment.
Employment is one of the major issues and concerns of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, because they do not want to feel like they are a burden on the community. Those who are not permitted to work (because of Temporary Protection Visa’s or conditions placed on their community based detention) find themselves feeling demoralised or despaired at their inability to contribute to Australian Society. Those who are able to seek employment often find discrimination either in the application process, or within the job itself. One Sudanese woman said “At work, the white Australian nurses give me the heaviest and messiest duties to do. Some talk down to me and others just don’t take notice of me and ignore me.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission visited those who were living in community detention. During those visits, they found that “opportunities for self-reliance and meaningful activities are critical to rebuilding resilience amongst asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.” Providing meaningful employment can be a very strong way of enabling refugees and asylum seekers to feel a part of their new community.
With this in mind, the Australian Government’s new “No Benefit” policy is incredibly worrying. Basically, what the government can do is give some asylum seekers a temporary protection visa, which does not allow them to work, volunteer, or even take part in ESL classes. This effectively removes them from society, and adds shocking results for their mental health, because not only are they sitting around doing nothing, but they feel bad about having to rely on people and agencies for their survival.
I was offered a job yesterday. It was, a couple of years ago, my dream job. It was teaching violin, 4 days a week, at schools in Albany. A couple of years ago – even possibly as late as last year – I might have jumped at the opportunity. This time, however, I turned it down.
Why? Well, I’m heading to college (hopefully – should find out on Wednesday) next year, and if we’re accepted to that, then I’m moving house. Working 4 days a week in Albany (which for those playing overseas is about a 4.5 hour drive, or around $200 each way for flights) would put a serious strain on my relationship with my wife, especially in the lead up to college, where we would be thrown into a boiler room of pressure, living in the college, studying every day with everyone else around us.
So I turned the job down. I know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also incredibly hard for me to pass something up that I had wanted for so long. A full-time teaching job – doing for a living what I was trained to do, instead of my current situation – working three hours on a Friday morning teaching, and doing non-musical work the rest of the week. But it’s ok, as I know that God has called me to ministry in the Salvation Army, and in a couple of years, I will not only be doing what I was trained to do, but also what I was called to do.
I think that makes it all better.
Have you ever had to give something up that you really wanted, because the situation wasn’t quite right?
I’ve been to a few job interviews over my years. My first was at K-Mart. It was a big group interview thing, they call your name, head to the next available spot and have your interview there. I started as a Christmas Casual, then continued and worked there for three years.
When I started at university, I had a job interview at a Music school attached to a music shop. I must have impressed as they offered me the job and said they’d call me when they organised some students. They never called me back. I wouldn’t be so annoyed had I not gone out and registered a business, bought supplies and music books to teach from.
Apart from that one, there’s only been one other job that I’ve gotten to interview and not gotten the job. It was really a job I wasn’t qualified to do, but after a few months of job searching and not getting even a glimmer, I had put far too much hope on it, and when I didn’t get the job I came down hard.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone going for a job is to be yourself, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
I acknowledge that I live and work on land for which the Whadjuk Noongar people are the traditional owners and custodians. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I also respect any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples from other lands.