Refugee Council of Australia
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Not Working: Experiences of refugees and migrants with Jobactive

Lack of specialisation and role of English

Lack of specialised Jobactive providers

The introduction of the Jobactive program in 2015 resulted in the loss of specialist providers for people from CALD backgrounds under the previous JSA program. Many service providers have expressed significant concerns about the lack of specialised services under the new Employment Services 2015-2020 Purchasing Arrangements.

Previously, under the JSA, specialist providers offered much needed support to address the specific and individual needs of people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. The removal of these specialist providers has had a devastating effect, further entrenching communities’ dissatisfaction with the Jobactive model, and increasing the difficulties people face in accessing employment.

Both FMI and RCOA received strong feedback about the need for targeted approaches to support those seeking employment, so that Jobactive providers recognise the barriers that refugee entrants face in entering the Australian labour market. A one-size- fits-all approach is unlikely to be successful in meeting the needs of such a diverse group of jobseekers.
Many participants felt that Jobactive providers lacked an understanding of the complex needs and experiences of job seekers from refugee backgrounds.

[The] Jobactive system is complex and frustrating because there is often not enough understanding provided to help people explore individual employment pathways or find work that matches their skills and experience.

— A community service provider from NSW

This lack of understanding of where people come from and what their needs are is reflected in RCOA’s previous research, What Works. That report identified that a key part of achieving success in employment was to ensure a targeted approach that addresses the distinct needs and barriers faced by refugee and migrant jobseekers.

Choosing between learning English and looking for work

ABS data suggest that Humanitarian migrants are twice as likely to find a job if they can speak English well. Jobseekers with mutual obligation requirements must comply with the directions of Jobactive providers. Although attending AMEP classes to learn English is considered an approved activity for these purposes, the case studies revealed that a person’s English classes often conflicted with their Jobactive appointments, interviews and other requirements. Left with no choice, many reported they had adhered to Jobactive demands, even if doing so compromised their English learning.

Many local service providers in Fairfield LGA and nationally have reported that Jobactive providers do not understand the importance of AMEP in supporting newly arrived people. As one AMEP pathway advisor described:

A young 24-year-old client has been pressured to find work as a cleaner and asked to stop learning English when he is still in level 1/2.

Furthermore, many Jobactive providers are not referring people to the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program which can provide up to an additional 800 hours of English and employment training. The SEE program requires referral by a Jobactive provider, yet many are unaware of and misinformed about the program and its importance in the settlement process. As one case study participant described:

[The] Jobactive consultant said I cannot continue to do the English course at Navitas to improve my English.
I had an appointment for an English test to enrol into SEE program. She cancelled my appointment and said to stop the beauty TAFE course I was doing on Fridays for the past 10 weeks. She said she found a job for me as a kitchen hand and that I need to start the job in a few days’ time; if I don’t Centrelink will stop my money.

— A young Iraqi woman from Fairfield LGA

Jobactive providers are also often unaware of the strong correlation between the low level of English many people arrive with and the impact it has on employment outcomes. Many providers do not seem to value the importance of English classes or understand the significance of English proficiency for jobseekers. Many people who are new to Australia do not have adequate English to write a resume, participate in a job interview or understand the significant reporting and application requirements.

By focusing on the need to take up a job to the detriment of learning English, the Jobactive system results in people being stuck in lower-skilled jobs, unable to fulfil their potential.

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