In July 2016, the Refugee Council of Australia spoke at a major national conference about the effect of asylum policies on the mental health of people seeking asylum. The National Suicide Prevention Conference, held by Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA), was held in Canberra between 24-27 July 2016.
Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers is a Brotherhood of St Laurence employment program for people seeking asylum. It supports those with bridging visas living in Melbourne. The program’s services includes assessing their job readiness, help with job applications, access to training, interview preparation and understanding Australian workplaces. By partnering with employers, the program also creates new jobs and training opportunities. The program has helped many individuals get their first job in Australia.
The first phase of this program has recently been evaluated by the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Since the program’s launch in 2013, 331 participants have found a job through the program. This is exceptional, because these people have very limited access to services and restrictive visa conditions.
The pilot initiative found that:
- Participants faced barriers because of complicated and uncertain visa conditions, changing eligibility for services, and work and study permissions. Participants also do not have the resources they need to fully participate in employment. These factors create uncertainty in their lives, and harm their chances in the open labour market.
- Despite these challenges, the program has had better results than those of mainstream employment services. In 2015-2016, 56% of all participants found a job. In comparison, 48% of Jobactive clients across all streams had been placed in work. Only 31% of culturally and linguistically diverse Jobactive clients accessing Stream B services were placed in work. Given the Chance builds jobseeking ‘know-how’ and connections with employers.
- More than half of all Given the Chance jobs were labouring and sales worker jobs, classified at the lowest skill levels. These are ‘survival jobs’ whichhave real benefits for asylum seekers, but are also generally casual or short-term part time jobs.
- The program has helped hundreds of people to find their first jobs in Australia. However, more work is needed to address the immigration policies and employer practices that prevent the broader group of people seeking asylum from achieving sustainable employment and economic security.