Doreen’s Story 

Arriving into the employment landscape of a new country as a refugee is, says Doreen, like “stepping into the unknown”.
In Papua New Guinea, Doreen trained and worked as a teacher. But in Australia, with those years of education and practical experience not formally recognised, Doreen struggled to understand why the educational framework she had worked within didn’t align with the Australian educational framework – despite teaching from the Australian curriculum in Papua New Guinea.

Despite the challenge, Doreen was determined to find a job not only to support herself and her family but also to build a future where she could use her professional experience more meaningfully. In January 2022, with the support of the ASRC Employment Program, Doreen started a full-time role with an Australian-based multinational transport company.

Although it’s a role that is not based on Doreen’s proven skillset and training in the education and IT sector, she knows it is a stepping stone to a new opportunity. By adding Australian work experience to the professional CV that the Employment Program taught her how to create to suit local employer expectations, Doreen knows more doors will open – and she looks forward to returning to sharing the teaching and IT industry expertise she worked hard to achieve.

As immigrants, we don’t understand the needs of the local job market and how to present ourselves, so the help I got from ASRC was valuable,” she says.

When Doreen first arrived in Australia on a student visa before changing her visa status to seek protection, she didn’t realise how challenging it is for migrants on non-resident visas -including refugees- to access affordable education and pursue relevant job opportunities.
Experiencing racism in Australian job interviews has been another unwelcome culture shock.

“I know I have the knowledge and the capacity to get back into the IT sector but I have had bad experiences with Australian employers who do not see it that way,” Doreen says. On four occasions, she has completed interviews successfully and been invited into the workplace in person to sign employment contracts, only to be disappointed by the employer’s attitude to what they say it’s a “visa issue”, but it makes her wonder how much her nationality or the colour of her skin has influenced the last-minute rejections.

One person stands out — for the wrong reasons,” Doreen says. “I had passed all their online test and interview stages, then was told that they wanted a one-on-one with me before signing the contract. The employer seemed surprised when they saw me and questioned me, quite aggressively, to ask if it was really me who had done the preliminary interviews with them.”

Although events like that have left Doreen feeling “suppressed”, she remains confident in her own technical abilities and holds on to the belief that, if given the opportunity, she could be a great fit for the right employer.

“Australia is the land of milk and honey,” Doreen says, despite her setbacks so far. “I’ve learned to be resilient and understanding. With the support of ASRC, who played a role in helping me regain my confidence, I feel that nothing can hold me down. I have a vast network of people who are willing to support me now.”

Creating success in Australia, Doreen says, is a case of give and take. She is a woman who loves to give back to her community, and so she has become a volunteer at the ASRC teaching basic IT skills to other new Australians or people seeking asylum and hopes that the knowledge helps them find easier employment pathways.

“I would say to employers: when people are of immigrant background, recognise that many of them have many valuable skillsets and lead them in a direction that builds them up for greater success and gives them a voice,” she says. “That is an important thing that any employer can do.”

If you empathise with Doreen’s story and you want to find out tips and ways to make the workforce more welcoming for refugees, fill out the form and download the resource.

You can also get in touch through the form by leaving a message of welcome for Doreen.

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The ASRC would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation as traditional owners and custodians of the land on which the ASRC stands. We acknowledge that the land was never ceded and we pay our respect to them, their customs, their culture, to elders past and present and to their emerging leaders.

This landing page is part of the campaign ‘Welcome Refugees into the Workforce’; an awareness campaign created as part of a partnership between ASRC and Yarra Trams which provides free tram wraps to community organisations making a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in Melbourne. The ASRC’s WELCOME tram wrap will feature on a wrapped tram that will travel on tram routes 48 and 109 in Melbourne from June to September 2023.