When a refugee or an asylum seeker arrives in Australia their journey is far from over. Despite all they’ve endured in the weeks, months and years leading upto their arrival, their resettlement in Australia is often stressful and wearisome.
Mohammad was 18 when he arrived in Australia. He spent his first few months in a detention centre, then after having his visa granted he a lived in Hobart for three weeks.
“The night I got out of the plane and [was] given a room in Narra backpackers in Hobart was one of the nights I can never forget in my whole life. The feeling of walking in the street, meeting [the] friendly people of Tasmania was amazing.”
"The feeling of walking in the street, meeting [the] friendly people of Tasmania was amazing"
He loved tasting different foods and meeting new people, he even liked the cold weather in Hobart because it reminded him of home.
Now living in Melbourne, Mohammad works at The Lincoln in Carlton. His younger brother lives in Brisbane, though the rest of his family remains overseas. Before starting at The Lincoln, Mohammad was in the same position as countless other young people: he was unemployed. Ask anyone looking for work right now and they’re likely to tell you just how disheartening it is to be in the job market. As well as facing the inevitable difficulties that job hunting brings, huge numbers of asylum seekers and refugees are experiencing a monumental transition: they’re coming to terms with a new language, a new home and a new community.
Scarf, a social enterprise founded in 2010, is helping to bridge the gap between employers in the hospitality industry and younger workers through training and hands-on experience. Mohammad says, “It was all Scarf who built the skills, confidence and increased my knowledge and interest.”
Scarf’s work is focussed on getting young people, particularly those from asylum seeker, refugee and migrant backgrounds, the experience and skills they need to get work, as well as connecting them with mentors and industry sponsors. Mohammad says Scarf gave him the opportunity “to understand the work environment in Australia and start my journey in the hospitality field.” He learnt about the making, and tasting, of wine, about brewing beer, making coffee, preparing resumes and cover letters, even interview techniques and job networking. Upon graduating from Scarf, he was equipped with a wealth of new skills.
Following their very successful stint at The Lincoln during winter, Scarf’s dinner series will run at The Empress Hotel in Fitzroy North on Tuesdays from the 6th of October up until the end of spring on the 1st of Decemer. When I asked Mohammad about the upcoming event, he told me how excited he was to be reunited with the friends he’s made through Scarf.
“My connections with people and my experience has made me aware that if people get together and spend time together, those misunderstandings can all be changed into an understanding soon”
When he isn’t working at The Lincoln, Mohammad volunteers at the Red Cross, CMY and YStop (City of Greater Dandenong). “I was involved with ASRC and City of Greater Dandenong Volunteering Resource Services previously, but since I got my job I have unfortunately decreased the hours of my volunteering,” he told me. As busy as he sounds, he says in his free time he loves visiting the Victorian countryside, walking and riding his bike along the rivers in summer and going to different cultural events around Melbourne.
Misconceptions about refugees and asylum seekers are commonplace within the Australian community, propagated by arguments that emphasise the economic and social burdens of immigration. However, economists’ studies show that there are huge benefits for countries welcoming refugees. Our social and cultural development as a nation is enhanced, but there are also tangible economic benefits, such as the increase in consumer demand and the positive effects on native unskilled wages, employment and job mobility.
“My connections with people and my experience has made me aware that if people get together and spend time together, those misunderstandings can all be changed into an understanding soon,” says Mohammad.
In the face of an increasingly capricious government, whose policies pertaining to refugees and aslyum seekers are condemned – and rightly so – by nations around the world, the work of community groups and organisations is more important than ever. Thankfully, organisations such as Scarf are working towards sustainable and enriching social change, the kind that helps our communities and the people living in them, regardless of their birthplace, to thrive.