The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) warmly welcomes the Victorian Government’s inclusion of people seeking asylum in the recently announced $500 million “Working for Victoria” Initiative, designed to provide employment to people who have lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the agreement designed to support Victorians into jobs, the ASRC will receive funding for 90 FTE positions, which will place up to 120 people into new roles within the organisation on a 6-month fixed term contract, of which 95% of these positions will be filled by people seeking asylum.
The Working for Victoria funding package will allow the ASRC to significantly increase its short-term capacity to provide meaningful work opportunities and Australian work experience to people seeking asylum, including those who have been seeking work and those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19.
The ASRC hopes the initiative will be an important first step in working with the State Government to address the long-standing structural barriers that currently deter many employers from hiring people seeking asylum, such as visa-based discrimination and poor understanding of peoples’ work rights and skills.
In a report published by the ASRC last year, the key recommendation for overcoming the barriers keeping people seeking asylum from economic participation is “joined up” thinking between State Government, community representatives, service providers and employers.
Abiola Ajetomobi, ASRC Director who oversees the Employment Program says, “We believe the Working for Victoria funding provides an incredible opportunity for people seeking asylum, helping to restore their income, build Australian work experience and improve their longer term job prospects. It also offers the ASRC a real-world opportunity to put the recommendations from our research report with Swinburne University Centre for Social Impact into practice in a transformational way, both for our organisation and our members.”
The ASRC’s Employment Program, a holistic and integrative program that provides pathways to employment for people seeking asylum, currently has over 600 active members on the database – people who are job-ready and have the skills and experiences relevant to perform the new roles provided by the State Government funding. Roles will be created across the organisation’s programs and service which will provide a breadth of opportunities and help in part to relieve the strain on the ASRC’s services caused by an increase in demand during the pandemic.
People seeking asylum are the only cohort of job seekers in Australia who are denied income support (Centrelink) while they look for work. During the pandemic, people seeking asylum who have lost work or income due to COVID-19 have also been excluded from the Federal Government’s safety net packages, Job Keeper and Job Seeker.
“There is arguably no group more vulnerable to the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic than people seeking asylum and their families. Without an income or any safety net, people are unable to provide their families with the basics like food, healthcare and shelter. How are you meant to survive the pandemic without these things?” said Kon Karapanogiotidis, CEO.
“Restoring people’s income, particularly for those who had been working and living independently in the community before the pandemic began, is key to relieving their reliance on welfare and providing people with the dignity and means to protect themselves and their families during the COVID-19 crisis. Rapid employment into these new roles is their best possible ‘safety net’ right now,” said Karapanogiotidis.
Abiola Ajetomobi, ASRC Director adds “Through these new roles, people will be given a unique opportunity to work for the ASRC doing meaningful work and gaining local job market experience. These roles will help people to not only maintain their work skills but build new ones, improving their employability and developing career adaptability into the future. It’s about more than restoring income. It’s about restoring hope and transforming lives.”
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