MORE than one hundred businesses and organisations have signed up to provide job opportunities for Syrian refugees expected to arrive in Brisbane in coming months.
Last November, the Queensland Government pledged to take 3500 refugees as part of an Australia-wide intake of 12,000.
In response, Multicultural Development Association, the independent, non-government settlement organization, launched a Queensland-wide campaign to find 500 work-experience places for Syrian refugee arrivals.
MDA is step closer to that goal, with 100 organisations – schools, unions, government departments and private businesses – agreeing to offer refugee workers 12-week job placements.
MDA’s chief executive officer Karen Benson said the program called Work and Welcome 500 aimed to provide 500 work places over the next few years as a first step for newly arriving Queenslanders.
“It is a great way to bring teams of people together and create excitement in the workplace and build a real strong sense of compassion,” she said.
“And people get to know about the vastly different life experiences that people have had and they get to know about the similar experiences they have had as well.”
The Work and Welcome program started at Padua College in 1993 (it was formerly known as Job Pledge) to provide work opportunities for vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
Padua College teacher Mark Taylor, who set up the program, said the focus shifted to helping refugees and migrants break the poverty cycle by assisting them into jobs.
The program has since expanded from its Padua College base and now includes 19 Catholic schools.
“After setting up the program I simply allowed humanity, generosity and compassion of the people to take over,” Mr Taylor this week told a gathering of employee representatives, who have already participated in the Work and Welcome program, or have newly joined it.
“You are the ones welcoming refugees into your workplaces.
“I’ve heard so many wonderful stories of you and your colleagues welcoming refugees into your homes, joining you for Christmas lunch and family celebrations, forming lasting friendships and offering real support and encouragement when it was needed most.
“The fundamental Christian maxim ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ lies at the heart of Work and Welcome,” Mr Taylor said.
Apande Gong, a 37-year-old refugee from South Sudan, said work placements had helped her forge a new beginning in Queensland.
She said a job was the key to helping refugees successfully resettle.
“When I came here, I was a refugee hungry for a new beginning,” she said.
“Anyone that comes to a new society and leaves from a war-torn country, all we need is a society that welcomes us with a job.”
By Mark Bowling