Master gardener Sabrina Hahn is encouraging Perth business owners to get involved in a program that gives asylum seekers vital experience in the Australian workforce.
Sabrina, who’s been giving gardening advice to West Australians for 25 years also runs Hort with Heart, her own gardening, landscaping and horticultural business which took on Afghan born asylum seeker Nouman (not his real name) last year.
He was introduced to the Hort with Heart team in September by MercyCare’s Asylum Seeker Work Placement program. This program is funded by MercyCare using its own funds.
Nouman, who’s awaiting the outcome of his application to be able to stay in Australia, is 23 years old and has been in the country since he arrived as a teenager in 2013, without any family members.
Last year Nouman needed to find work to support himself. While he was eager to find employment, his lack of education and network of local contacts proved to be significant barriers in his search for work.
MercyCare connected Nouman with Sabrina in September last year, knowing he had some experience working in the outdoors on his family’s farm in Afghanistan.
While Nouman impressed Sabrina so much that he’s been taken on as a full-time contractor, other businesses have offered short term work experience placements to MercyCare’s asylum seekers, which enables them to gain experience and references, both of which are a great asset in their search for employment.
Sabrina describes bringing Nouman into her team as “the best decision we’ve ever made.”
“Nouman has now made it possible for me to take on other jobs that I normally wouldn’t be able to do, he’s a real asset to our business and an absolutely wonderful worker,” she said.
“He always turns up for work early, he shows great initiative and there’s nothing I’ve asked of Nouman that he hasn’t taken on with 100 per cent gusto. He’s also very pleasant and polite and lovely with all our clients and really respectful of me as well. He’s really keen to learn, you can tell that Nouman genuinely wants to learn.”
Nouman says he’s been enjoying being able to work and making the most of all the opportunities he’s had to learn new skills. “I love working in nature and I think I’m very lucky that I met Sabrina,” he said.
“Working just helps the mind to feel good. As a person, you just feel good at being able to see what you can achieve and contribute to the community.”
As he’s still awaiting the outcome of his application to stay in Australia he isn’t allowing himself to dream too much about what his future holds.
For now, he says he’s simply soaking up as much knowledge as he can and enjoying the safety and freedom of life in Australia.
Nouman is just one of a number of asylum seekers MercyCare has connected with local businesses to give them experience in the Australian workforce.
MercyCare’s Complementary Services Project Lead Teri O’Toole said providing experience in an Australian workplace was important to this group of people as it helps them improve their English, get an understanding of Australian workplace expectations, improve skills and broaden their networks – all of which are vital in helping them to get a meaningful paid role.
“Being new to the country, with no networks, local experience or references, it is very hard for these people to compete with other job seekers, especially given that they are usually needing to take on entry-level roles, either through lack of transferable skills or needing to transfer overseas qualifications to be valid for working within Australia.”
Sabrina encouraged businesses to get involved in the MercyCare-run program.
“I’d strongly recommend all businesses to give asylum seekers an opportunity to contribute back to the community that has welcomed them in, because that’s exactly what they want to do,” she said.
“They can be so hard working and so grateful for being given that opportunity.
It can be hugely beneficial for businesses as they will bring in a whole new perspective, are such resilient people and are willing to work hard in order to build a new life in our country.”
MercyCare has people with a range of skills and qualifications who are looking for opportunities.
Businesses interested in taking part in the Asylum Seeker Work Placement program are encouraged to contact Teri O’Toole on 0413 328 279 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.