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Employment and Training: African Australians - Compendium (2010)

2010 - African Australians: human rights and social inclusion issues project

A compendium detailing the outcomes of the community and stakeholder consultations and interviews and public submissions

5 Employment and Training

5.1 Overview

This section documents the issues emerging from the consultations and public submissions in relation to employment and training.

For migrant and refugee job seekers, finding paid work is both a key indicator and a major determinant of successful settlement. Employment is also a
crucial area of social and economic participation.

African Australians want to build their new life and contribute to Australian society, but many, especially newer arrivals, have to confront numerous
barriers when accessing employment and training.

Ensuring that all Australians have the skills and opportunities to participate in the workforce is fundamental to Australia's social and economic
sustainability. In addition, investment in skills and workforce participation serves to strengthen social inclusion.

5.2 Access to training

(a) What barriers do African Australians face in accessing training opportunities?
(i) Community

There are a variety of options available for those who wish to undertake vocational education or training. These include tertiary courses in
universities and colleges; courses run by TAFE colleges designed to cover a range of needs and education levels, including trade apprenticeships; and
training programs funded by government bodies and other organisations, designed to assist disadvantaged job seekers to enter the workforce.

Community respondents highlighted a number of barriers confronting African Australians in accessing training opportunities. In summary, the main
barriers identified during the community consultations included:

  • increasing mistrust and cynicism by community members of training providers and programs
  • challenges in accessing 510 hours of English language classes as oral skills above entry criteria, but written skills fall below
  • limited English language fluency - or 'survival' English not vocational English proficiency
  • lack of knowledge of employment and training options
  • stereotyped views of capacity to learn
  • lack of familiarity with training concepts and terms
  • entry level requirements for many training courses and apprenticeships exclude many African Australians, particularly the newly arrived refugee and humanitarian entrants
  • specific issues for women, including limited childcare options/availability which restricts their ability to attend training and education
  • inadequate support and resourcing of flexible delivery options for some courses
  • travel to and from the training centre/site
  • limited availability of preparatory and access programs
  • newly arrived African Australian young people often have difficulty in securing apprenticeships or traineeships
  • inconsistencies between state and federal policies in the area of apprenticeships leading to confusion
  • training centres or sites are often inaccessible to African Australians with mobility disabilities or attendant care needs.

Following is a more detailed overview of some of the key barriers identified.

Community respondents across each of the various states reported feeling increasingly cynical of training providers and programs, particularly as those
having completed a course or program had found themselves out of pocket and without a job:

"I have heard many examples of people paying for the training and other things like clothing and equipment on the promise of employment only to find
that the circumstances had changed and no jobs, even after you have spent so much."
(Participant, Community Focus Group, NSW)

Many of the young people in the youth specific focus groups also highlighted that the widespread perceptions of ineffectiveness associated with the
training programs offered was impacting on people's motivation to participate:

"Young people (are) being dissuaded from pursuing apprenticeships as a result of seeing others being left without a job at the end of their training."
(Participant, Youth Focus Group, SA)

There was general agreement that more youth friendly approaches needed to be adopted in the design of training programs. Respondents also stressed the
need for better transition frameworks for supporting and integrating young people into education, employment and training pathways generally.

Discussions relating to English languages skills and English language training featured in almost all of the consultations:

"500 hours of English language training - this may be adequate for immigrants from Europe who have some understanding/knowledge of English, but for
others, such as those of us from Africa, especially remote areas, it's just not enough."

(Participant, Community Consultations, WA)

A specific issue for women, including limited childcare options/availability which restricts their ability to attend training and education
opportunities, was consistently identified across a number of community consultations:

African woman faces overwhelming challenges in applying for jobs, most are faced by both men and women. African women cannot get a job just by applying
via a resume and demonstrating the skills they has like other Australians. They have to know someone that works in the business or organization they
are applying with, a relative, a friend or a family member or even cannot get an interview. We are not talking professional job in their field. Many
are working as cleaner after their graduation from Australian university."

(ii) Stakeholders

When asked to identify barriers to accessing training opportunities, stakeholder respondents cited the following (in order of frequency):

  • lack of English language proficiency
  • lack of individualised assistance in accessing employment and training options, especially in understanding and responding to procedural details
  • lack of understanding by case managers & employers of the social and cultural backgrounds of clients and their needs
  • lack of knowledge of employment and training options
  • inadequate pre-training assessment to determine individual learning needs
  • insufficient resources for individualised case management and mentoring
  • lack of familiarity with training terminology
  • lack of childcare and its impact on participation for women
  • lack of follow up/assistance with formal applications after completing the training
  • lack of awareness of rights in relation to making complaints relating to inadequate or unprofessional programs
  • limited training facilities in rural and regional areas.

Several service providers highlighted the challenges associated with current levels of English language training, with most agreeing that at present
they do not enable most students to acquire English language competence to a level required for VET and employment.

"The effects of trauma, low literacy levels, cultural differences and disorientation impact profoundly on a students' capacity to achieve functional
English. It affects their concentration and then ultimately their motivation to learn."

(Stakeholder, NSW)

Other stakeholders also highlighted the fact that there are too many competing concerns, particularly for new arrivals:

"They are trying to learn English, whilst also trying to seek out appropriate support services, get all their necessary paperwork in for Centrelink,
find housing, and at the same time trying and work out the education system and processes."

(Stakeholder, NSW)

A number of providers of English language training did, however, highlight that humanitarian entrants can also access the Special Preparatory Program
(SPP), which consists of an additional 100 hours before the 510 commence.

Lack of knowledge and use of employment information services was seen to be having a major impact on employment, with several stakeholders suggesting
an urgent need for greater information on the programs and supports available:

"So many have just not heard of these training and support programs, and just don't end up using any of the vocational counseling service or career
information centres."

(Stakeholder, ACT)

The impact of limited day care places for children, and associated costs, influences the ability of parents, particularly newly arrived mothers, to
attend English classes and, therefore, impedes the settlement process for those affected:

"There are increasingly fewer childcare places in Perth to accommodate the children of parents studying English. Consultations suggest that some
childcare centres are reluctant to take children of AMEP students because it is expected that they will be more needy and time consuming. The high cost
of childcare services is a further issue for African humanitarian entrants, many of whom have several children."

(Stakeholder, WA)

Stakeholders frequently identified the need for more targeted programs to improve access to, and success in, VET programs and courses, including
apprenticeships and traineeships. Due to limited language and educational backgrounds many African Australian humanitarian entrants do not have a level
of English language competency, study skills or life skills to access or succeed in VET.

Several providers expressed the view that many newly arrived African Australians are not accessing career counselling services to guide decisions
regarding education, training and employment:

"Although counseling services might be available, what we find is that many just don't make use of these services. They self select out, largely due to
their lack of confidence in their English language fluency, and think there is no point in even trying to seek out what possible further education or
employment opportunities might exist for them."

(Stakeholder, NSW)

(iii) Public submissions

Issues relating to the broader theme of access to training were addressed by almost half (44%) of the submissions.

The submissions detailed a number of barriers preventing African Australians from accessing appropriate training opportunities. These included:

  • inadequate post-arrival settlement information
  • lack of knowledge of how to access appropriate services
  • lack of recognised qualifications to access some training programs
  • lack of recognised referees
  • lack of appropriate understanding of position descriptions and requirements
  • case managers not being appropriately informed about African Australian communities' cultures and refugee experiences
  • language difficulties negatively impacting training opportunities
  • inadequate number of hours allocated for English education
  • TAFE and other training institutions' opportunities not meeting the needs of the community
  • lack of appropriate childcare options
  • lack of appropriate transport options
  • lack of self esteem and other health issues.

(b) What specific training opportunities would be most helpful to newly arrived African Australians?

(i) Community

A range of suggestions were provided by respondents in relation to specific training opportunities that would be particularly helpful to newly arrived
African Australians. It is important to note however, that the overwhelming response to this was that any training opportunities that actually resulted
in employment would be the most helpful:

"I can list a number of very creative things that could be done, but at the end of it all the question I would want answered or the way I would tell
you whether these suggestions are useful or not is whether I got a job as a result. Isn't that why these programs exist?"

(Participant, community focus group, NSW)

Overall, however, suggestions included:

  • vocational education programs linked to language skills
  • on-arrival information about education, training and employment options
  • professional mentoring programs involving members of the Australian business and employer groups
  • programs that combine basic training in trade skills with job placement and post placement support
  • flexibility and variability in relation to when programs are offered to better enable women to attend
  • more preparatory training programs and bridging courses
  • provision of onsite childcare
  • more intensive and appropriate support both during and after the training program
  • innovative teaching practices that allow students to learn in a mode and environment most comfortable for them (e.g. use of diagrams,
    photographs and workplace demonstrations)
  • training and courses to assist with obtaining a driver's licence.

In response to the above question, most people agreed that any training opportunities that resulted in employment would be the most helpful:

"Finding work so that you can support your family.... that's why you go to the training isn't it?"
(Participant, Community Focus Group, Qld)

Participants repeatedly stressed the critical need to gain work experience within Australian workplaces:

"A training program that really gives you some ideas about Australian workplaces, and can then give you some work experience would be terrific."
(Participant, Community Focus Group, Vic)

A significant number of women participating in the consultations also strongly suggested greater variability in relation to when training programs are
offered and the need for childcare to better facilitate their capacity to participate:

The need for more intensive support both during the training program and following completion was frequently raised during almost all of the focus

"Training providers need to understand more about the backgrounds of Africans who use their programs, and recognise that when you come from a place
where the idea of 'training' is somewhat alien, and you learn through doing or through oral discussion, then the approaches that are taken just don't
seem to work. More support needs to be given while people are going through the training, and then making sure that people even know how to fill in an
application form."

(African Settlement Worker, Vic)

Several respondents suggested that tutoring, additional English language support and mentoring are required to help those already in training. This is
particularly the case for teenagers and those in their early 20s who have had limited education opportunities on arrival.

Bridging courses were also seen as vital to assist African humanitarian entrants in specific vocational sectors. Programs could incorporate ESL support
and be particularly tailored to skills shortage areas, such as the building trades, security industry, metal work industry, truck/bus driving, mining,
health English for nurses and childcare, which would provide speedy pathways into employment.

The need for more targeted and more effective information dissemination for African Australian migrants and refugees who are unable to access all the
available services because of limited knowledge about how and where to obtain information about employment and training programs available was
repeatedly identified by community respondents.

Several suggestions were made in relation to the development and implementation of mentoring programs to assist migrants and refugees with their
employment and training opportunities. Mentoring programs would be aimed at increasing knowledge about how to apply for jobs in Australia, including
interview techniques, and how to put together resumes.

Following are examples provided of current projects:

Multicultural Development Agency, Qld
MDA's employment and training programs offer migrants and refugees case management services which involve working one-on-one with individuals to make
them job ready. They also provide paid work experience opportunities where participants are able to obtain on-the-job work experience with community
organisations and tertiary institutions. Along with this, the participants attend one day a week of in-house training where they are able to improve
their job search and interview skills, occupational health and safety, Australian workplace culture, social and work environment and office
administration skills.
Please see:
Ishar Program - Wonder Woman Going Back to 'P' Work, WA
Ishar received funding from the WA Department of Education and Training under the Equity, Development and Innovation Grants Pave the Way.
The project commenced in July 2008 and with further funding for 2009, continued to offer assistance to women from African, Middle Eastern and Asian
backgrounds to develop and adapt their job search skills to the Australian context. There are a total of three series of workshops. The sessions
include information on resume writing, job search and interview techniques and addressing selection criteria amongst other relevant topics. Further,
the project provides individual assistance by a local Employment Service and by the Project Coordinator. The program also offers a crèche facility
for women with young children.
Please see:

Obtaining a driver's licence is critical for newly-arrived migrants and refugees. Several barriers to obtaining a driver's licence have been
identified, including low literacy levels which pose a challenge to passing the Learner Permit Theory Test, particularly when computer-based multiple
choice questions are used, and also the high cost of driving lessons in addition to the higher than average number of lessons required by many CALD
clients, particularly those from some African countries.

(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders made the following suggestions in relation to specific training opportunities that would better assist newly-arrived African Australians:

  • combination of vocational training with English language classes
  • basic and advanced Language, literacy and numeracy courses
  • cultural orientation programs on the culture of the Australian workplace
  • workplace laws, including equal opportunity and anti discrimination laws
  • developing business acumen in the Australian workplace environment
  • basic computer skills
  • building self confidence
  • life skills
  • bridging courses to address skills gaps between qualifications and experience gained overseas and Australian industry standards.

It is important to note however that many of those consulted cautioned against the presumption that training alone would improve access to employment

Several stakeholders highlighted the need for programs that would improve the awareness of cultural contexts within Australian workplaces amongst
African Australians, particularly those who are newly arrived. Cross cultural awareness training was considered essential for improved service delivery
to migrants and refugees in their employment endeavours. Both employers and Job Network providers can benefit from such training.

More flexible specialist employment and training programs would be beneficial in assisting African Australian migrants and refugees.

(iii) Public submissions

A number of specific training opportunities and other recommendations for increasing access to training were offered in the submissions. They include:

  • establish a government agency that specifically manages a work experience program for refugees, including:

    • perform training and skills assessments on arrival
    • provide appropriate career counselling, employment readiness skills training and mentoring programs
  • provide work related English skills training
  • establish a gender-specific educational outreach service for women with children
  • provide cross-cultural training for educators
  • establish a HECS-like scheme for job training
  • increase childcare hours for training participants
  • provide a program targeting older people with limited education that helps them understand Australian culture and introduces them to effective
    ways of learning
  • establish networks between service providers and employers willing to assist newly-settled African Australians
  • increase AMEP services, including:
    • make AMEP a two year program de-linked from Centrelink and Job Network reporting
    • increase hours of English tuition (510 hours are not enough)
    • provide tuition to people with poor written literacy even if spoken literacy is good
    • provide a wider range of courses with more intensive English
    • utilise Get Wise series from AMEP
  • establish ACE and TAFE living skills programs (in addition to English language tuition)
  • establish community advocates, including:
    • training Africans to help/serve their own communities in Australia
    • focus on self-employment opportunities
  • provide realistic career counselling for students, including:
    • provide parents with information on education opportunities for children
    • provide cross-cultural training for educators
    • inform students and parents of educational requirements and financial costs involved in entering different fields of employment
    • assist students with realistically planning a career
  • provide more interpreters, including:
    • ensure interpreters are available to speak the various dialects spoken by African Australians
    • provide appropriately translated information about accessing interpreters to both newly arrived African Australians and their communities, and to the
      service providers working with them
  • provide more accessible translated information about all services and other useful information, including:
    • local geography and map reading
    • transport options
    • language, including learning English and accessing interpreters
    • clearly describing Australian requirements for training and employment opportunities, including duties, rights, codes of conduct
    • industrial relations and unions.
(c) How can interpreting and translation services be improved to provide better access and assistance to African Australians in the training and
employment sectors?
(i) Community

All respondents agreed that interpreters are critical to accessing assistance in the training and employment sectors. However, a number of gaps were
identified and suggestions for improvements offered.

One of the key gaps identified was the lack of availability of accredited interpreters particularly in the newer African languages:

"If you are Bari, and you don't speak either Dinka or Juba Arabic, then there is nothing else for you except to find a friend or family member to come
with you and this is what I have had to do because I keep getting told that I cannot be helped."

(Community Respondent, Vic)

There is no doubt that the diversity of languages, and the constant arrival of 'new' languages through the immigration program, have been and remain
the most challenging aspects of meeting need.

Several community respondents expressed their frustration at what they perceived to be the lack of training by service providers in using interpreting
services appropriate and effectively. For example, identifying a client's language based on their country of birth can be unreliable:

"He kept asking my wife where she was born. She was born in Ethiopia, but she is Eritrean, and she does not actually speak Arabic. They seem to think
that all Africans speak Arabic!"

(Community respondent, SA)

Difficulties in getting translations of documents particularly application forms for training programs, was also identified as a significant barrier.

Another issue that received attention from community members was the inaccessibility of many of the websites that employment and training providers

"It would be helpful if maybe they could put some of the information on the internet in different languages. This would help at least get some of the
basic information clear in my head."

(Community respondent, NSW)

A few respondents pointed out that languages written in other scripts may pose special challenges. The provision of information in an audio format may
be worth consideration and technologies such as touch-screens and interactive voice response (IVR) may provide additional opportunities to help users
to locate information.

Suggestions for improvements included increasing the availability of languages to better accommodate the diversity of African
languages, particularly the more recent language groups.

A considerable number of community respondents referred to Centrelink's Interpreting Services as good practice, and suggested that some of the service
features could be transferred to some of the training providers. Centrelink provides interpreters at no cost to customers. Interpreters are available
by appointment in Centrelink Customer Service Centres. Where necessary to support a claim, Centrelink also provides a free translation service for
customer documents.

(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders made a number of suggestions in relation to improving translation and interpreting services so as to enhance access to employment and
training options:

  • increased funding to train more translators / interpreters
  • thinking of new ways to engage Job Network Providers and caseworkers to access interpreters
  • provide interpreters at interviews with caseworkers
  • translated information regarding employment and training options
  • better training for caseworkers and administrative staff in the use of interpreters.

Particular concerns were also raised that the allocation of one fee-free translation per document category was not sufficient.

Several stakeholders made reference to the Decision Tree for Engaging an Interpreter which can be used as a useful resource to assist in
determining the kinds of communication exchanges that require the use of competent interpreters or translating services.

5.3 Employment and training needs

(a) Can you give examples of genuine training and employment pathways available to African Australians?
(i) Community

Several respondents identified local social enterprises as being particularly helpful to newly-arrived African Australians. Social enterprise affords
unique local opportunities for economic and social participation for the program's participants.

Following are some examples of training and employment pathways, including social enterprises, provided by community participants:

African Enterprise (Tas) -
In 2003, some refugees with the support of community organisations formed an Association, which was registered as an Incorporated Association and named
African Enterprise. They secured a government grant and opened the AFRITAS restaurant in Hobart as the first enterprise project. AFRITAS is no longer
in operation however when it was, it provided training and much-needed employment opportunities for those interested in the hospitality sector.
The Ambassador newspaper
is the first Horn of African newspaper in Australia and helps to train community members in various skills. The Ambassador runs a program which
provides work experience to TAFE students. So far, four people involved with this program have graduated with the Certificate III in Business
Please see:
Mu'ooz Cooperative - Qld -
The Mu'ooz Cooperative was started by the Eritrean Women and Family Support Network which supports new arrivals in the settlement process and conducts
community development activities, particularly for refugee women from Eritrea.
The project aims to enhance their catering activities and further develop capacity building through work experience in the restaurant. As well as
creating opportunities for paid employment for refugee women and their families through cooperative-based self-employment,
Please see:
Somali Women Interested in Business
(Vic) - 'Somali Women Interested in Business' was conducted in partnership with Women's Health West and the Flemington Project. This event focused on
women who were interested in or required support to run their own business. There were key speakers from Victoria University (VU), Centrelink and the
Australian Tax Office (ATO), who were able to provide a range of information.
Please see:

There were also other examples of specialist groups getting together to assist members of the African Australian communities, particularly
professionals who may be experiencing difficulties in accessing employment opportunities.

Examples included:

African Professionals of Australia (WA) -
is an association of African professionals living and working in Australia. The organisation is a professional body whose mission is to contribute to
professional growth and capacity of African professionals living in Australia.
The association aims to provide information to newly-arrived skilled immigrants about procedural requirements necessary for them to practise. Employers
will also be provided with information about the skills offered by the migrants. African Professionals of Australia Inc organises workshops, events and
networking opportunities for professional Australians of African backgrounds and the business community in Australia.
Please see:
(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders were able to provide examples of successful programs aimed at providing industry skills and workplace experience. These include:

Employment Pathways Reference Group - MRCSA -
This is a jointly convened committee with Centrelink, with membership from DEEWR, AMEP and Job Networks, and is a forum for identifying gaps in refugee
training and employment pathways and addressing these through advocacy to relevant bodies.
Please see:
Multicultural Youth Employment Project
was funded by the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) for 12 months and targeted young CALD jobseekers aged
between 15 and 24 years who were experiencing barriers to effective participation in the labour market. The project developed and implemented pathways
to employment, with young people receiving intensive assistance with writing resumes and job applications, preparing for interviews and accessing
appropriate employment and training. Many young people found work in a range of areas in various sectors.
Please see:
ACCES Employment Pathways
- This project assists newly-arrived migrants and refugees with practical job preparation and job search assistance. The service operates from various
locations in Queensland. The project works at building cross-cultural awareness to break down barriers in a supportive environment and identifies
employment and training pathways suited to the participant's skill set, in order to encourage ongoing sustainable employment.
Please see:
AMES Community Guides Initiative -
Community Guides are employed in order to:

  • assist refugees in their early settlement to become linked to broader community and mainstream networks by providing Community Guides who speak
    the refugee's first language, are culturally matched to the refugee and who share the refugee experience.
  • provide employment opportunities for refugee community members who become Community Guides.
To date approximately 140 people from refugee backgrounds have worked as Community Guides to assist more recent arrivals from the same country
background or first language to navigate and settle into Victoria. Their work demonstrates the value of their first language and their cultural
backgrounds and skills in explaining concepts and details which can be complex and foreign.
Please see:
The Mamre Project (Sisters of Mercy) -
an initiative of the Sisters of Mercy whose aim is to assist recently arrived settlers from Africa, living in Blacktown and Outer Western Sydney, to
gather the skills required to achieve sustainable employment. This project utilises partnerships with local employers, job network providers and
emerging African communities to identify and address barriers to sustained employment
Please see:

Community based examples cited also included:

Werribee Community Centre - Community Kitchen
: provides training in hospitality and catering to Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP) students from new and emerging communities. The
community enterprise set up a sustainable community garden to provide vegetables for the kitchen, and training and employment pathways. The project is
a follow-up to the continuing work of the Wyndham Humanitarian Network, a grouping of local service providers that was initiated several years ago in
Werribee by Centrelink, the Werribee Community Centre, AMES Settlement and the Wyndham City Council to meet the settlement needs of the increasing
numbers of refugee and humanitarian migrants, mainly Sudanese and Karen Burmese, who were settling in the Wyndham local government area.
Please see:
Personal Services Broker
is a pilot project providing employment assistance to young refugees in Fairfield (NSW) and Broadmeadows (Victoria).
Please see:
Migrant Work Experience Program (Qld)
This program gave recently-arrived migrants a chance to gain experience through a mix of training and work experience with a stake government
department acting as a sponsor over a 10 week period. The program does not guarantee ongoing paid employment however past graduates from the program
have won traineeships or entry level administrative positions within the Queensland public service or in the private sector.
Please see:

Several employer groups have also contributed to the establishment of programs. For example, an organisation called Employers Making a Difference in Tasmania, set up by business people with a successful record of employing people with a disability,
produced a video that positively influenced employers to recruit people with a disability.

Please see:

The Office of Post-Compulsory Education and Training in Tasmania discussed with STEPS Employment and Training Solutions the idea of providing funding for producing a similar video to encourage
employers to consider employing refugees. The team at STEPS Employment and Training Solutions approached the employers and employees featured and
gained their agreement to appear in the video. Five employers were drawn together and interviewed about their experiences of employing African
refugees. They were asked how they had addressed any perceived or real issues.

Another example provided is one currently being undertaken by the Royal Life Saving Society WA. The Royal Life Saving Society WA
Training department has been working with the Employment Directions Network to develop and improve the skills of people from
culturally diverse backgrounds.

(iii) Public submissions

Issues relating to employment and training needs were addressed by more than a third (40%) of the submissions.

A number of training and employment pathways available to African Australians were provided in the submissions. They include:

  • Family Action Centre Project in Newcastle
  • AMES
  • Tasmanian Polytechnic Pathways courses
  • TAFE and other training institutions
  • Interlink in Adelaide
  • Job Networks / RTOs.
(b) Please comment on what is meant by 'securing meaningful employment' from your personal and/or professional perspective?
(i) Community

Very few community participants were able to elaborate on their understanding of 'securing meaningful employment', with most suggesting that " any kind of employment would be good" (Participant, Youth Focus Group).

A handful of statements were made, with most citing:

  • job satisfaction
  • financial independence
  • alignment with one's skills and qualifications
  • positive self image and self-esteem
  • being able to provide for one's family.
(ii) Stakeholders

A number of service providers/government agency representatives were able to provide some comments, including:

  • work that is aligned with your skills/capacity
  • security and confidence in the nature of the job and the working environment
  • non exploitative
  • workplaces where contributions are valued and respected, and career progression is possible
  • self determination
  • any pathway that recognises not only prior learning and experience but also takes into consideration the aspirations of the individual by
    recognising his or her right to self-determination while at the same time providing the guidance, resources and mentoring to achieve those goals.

Several stakeholders also spoke strongly of their observations of employment agencies who did 'anything but seek out meaningful employment' for African
Australian clients:

"It means not channeling clients, especially those from refugee backgrounds, into the first available menial job but reinforcing their acquired

(Stakeholder, WA)

"I have spoken to several young African Australians who aspire to become lawyers or doctors, only to have their dreams disparaged by teachers and
career advisors who believe they lack the commitment and intelligence to complete tertiary studies. Several young African Australian women have been
advised to seek careers in heath or aged care, cleaning and hospitality or marry and start a family."

(Stakeholder, Vic)

(c) What career advice is helpful for newly-arrived African Australians?
(i) Community

In responding to this question, several community representatives and leaders made the point that in their view employment agencies rarely viewed
employment for African Australians as a career and so rarely provided 'career advice':

"I think if the process of seeking employment was seen as one involving career options, then maybe we wouldn't get sent out to low skilled jobs when
some of us are clearly over qualified... maybe we would get seen as professionals or skilled people who are interested in a 'career."

(Community Leader, Qld)

Broadly, however, the following suggestions were made in relation to career advice:

  • career advisors need to be realistic about the competitive nature of Australian workforces and convey this honestly to newly-arrived people,
    particularly young people
  • advice in relation to the impact that unemployment can have on issues such as skills development, exposure to changing requirements within the
    specific industry of choice and so on
  • specific information and advice in relation to apprenticeships - information should also be targeted at parents of young people around the
    benefits of trade work to counter misinformation
  • career advisors should come from within the community - these advisors could also act as role models.

"We need advice that is real and doesn't lead people to believe things that won't actually happen. So many times people get disappointed because they
think that they can just get into the job they want."

(Participant, Community Focus Group, Tas)

"Sometimes our parents don't realise that becoming an electrician or a plumber is actually a good job, and one that pays good too. They all think that
you have to be a doctor or a lawyer to be successful in Australia."

(Participant, Youth Focus Group, SA)

(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders made the following suggestions in relation to career advice for newly-arrived African Australians:

  • be realistic about training and job choices
  • patience as a critical part of seeking employment
  • the need to be willing and prepared to start at the bottom
  • be prepared that discrimination and racism does exist in the recruitment process and learn about your rights to complain
  • older arrivals will find it difficult to seek out employment of choice
  • prior experience is important, but needs other competencies such as English fluency
  • be prepared to explore new avenues and pathways to professional advancement.

"Any advice that assists African Australians to understand the job market, the importance of establishing contacts and networks, accessing services and
programs to upgrade existing skills and any advice that motivates them to be willing and flexible to explore new avenues and pathways to professional

5.4 Employment services

(a) What barriers do African Australians encounter in using services of employment agencies (including the Job Network)?
(i) Community

Many respondents noted a broad range of barriers encountered by African Australians in using services of employment agencies, such as Job Network,
although several highlighted the fact that New Employment Services (Job Services Australia) had been recently introduced and that there was widespread
anticipation in relation to the program addressing many of the barriers.

Barriers cited included:

  • system difficult to access as it is often overly complex, frustrating and overwhelming
  • inadequate emphasis on finding work that is appropriate to individual's skill levels, interest and experience
  • insufficient time to explore employment pathways
  • particular challenges for newly-arrived African Australians, especially those from refugee and humanitarian backgrounds include requirement of
    computer skills (with little support to acquire them)
  • inadequate use of interpreter services by employment agencies
  • lack of focus on obtaining Australian workplace experience in advice/direction provided by employment services
  • pressure to exit AMEP before the completion of allotted English classes in order to take up employment, which is also a precondition of
    receiving Centrelink support

"The system assumes clients have access to technology and information, rather than being there to help them navigate the system."
(Participant, Community Focus Group, NSW)

A key issue raised was the lack of information or advice on what to do if people have experienced discrimination.

(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders regularly expressed the view that overall, Job Network Providers are failing to help people get jobs. It was suggested that this was due
to a number of factors including:

  • lack of cultural awareness by providers
  • lack of specialist services, such as those provided by Centrelink through its network of Multicultural Liaison Officers
  • negative stereotypes about African Australians held by providers

The following barriers to using employment agencies were identified by stakeholders:

  • English language fluency
  • inadequate screening process in relation to proper identification of needs
  • lack of flexibility in relation to streaming decisions
  • conflicting advice between different providers - leading to confusion
  • lack of appropriate and intensive support.

Specific issues for young people were highlighted, particularly the view that existing employment support programs are not equipped to provide the
intensive assistance these young people require:

"There needs to be greater coordination of the existing resources, cross-cultural training of the services that deliver them and more targeted
employment and jobs skill programs available for refugee young people. Without these measures, refugee young people and their communities will continue
to have high unemployment rates, leaving them disengaged and isolated."

(Stakeholder, WA)

While it was expected that the reforms would go some way to addressing many of the identified barriers, several respondents cautioned about the
importance of ensuring that such services were able to meet the specific needs of refugee and humanitarian entrants.

(iii) Public submissions

Issues relating to employment services were addressed by one third (32%) of the submissions.

A number of submissions also drew attention to some of the barriers African Australians encounter when using services of employment agencies (including
the Job Network).

(b) Do employment agencies provide culturally appropriate services to African Australians? If yes, then how?
(i) Community

The overwhelming community response was that, on the whole, employment agencies were falling well below the mark in terms of provision culturally
appropriate services to African Australians.

A significant number of respondents also suggested that negative, and in some instances perceived discriminatory perceptions of the skills sets and
work attitudes of African Australians were underpinning the inadequate level of service provision.

Some participants felt that employment agencies were overly ethnocentric and "only took care of their own people".

Several community respondents suggested that it was commonplace for many within African Australian communities to seek employment through informal
connections rather than through formalised employment networks.

Although mostly negative, some positive examples were provided. These positive examples generally tended to be migrant employment programs such as:

The New Futures Training Workforce Participation Partnerships (WPP)
The Victorian Co-operative on Children's Services for Ethnic Groups (VICSEG) set up New Futures Training. Certificate and diploma courses are delivered
in a range of locations across Melbourne, to refugee and migrant women in the care services, particularly childcare and aged care. A
partnership was developed with a family day care centre via the WPP project. Prior to joining the project, most of the participants had not received
formal education, had limited English language and had not previously undertaken paid work experience. As a result of the partnership, 40 refugee women
gained permanent employment.

Most community respondents agreed that equipping employment service providers with the skills to work effectively with African Australians,
particularly those who are newly arrived, will make assessments more effective and pathways to achieving employment outcomes more realistic.

Several community participants highlighted that specialist migrant/refugee services are better able to recognise the issues facing newly-arrived
communities and better understand the many refugee groups, their cultures, and needs and also employ workers from different cultures who speak
different languages. One such group is:

African Australian (A2)
African Australian (A2) was founded and established in 2008 by African Australian citizens. A2 employment consultants come from diverse industry
backgrounds, and emphasize high standards and ethical service.
Please see:
(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders varied in their response this question, but most agreed that cross-cultural awareness training is necessary for improved service delivery
to migrants and refugees in their employment endeavours.

Examples cited of current successful programs aimed at building the cultural competencies of employment agencies included the following:

Auburn Employment Working Group
Auburn Employment Working Group developed an initiative to provide pilot training to employment service providers (ESP) in the area. The training was
designed specifically for ESP consultants working with clients from refugee background and was open to all ESP from the Central West Employment Service
Please see:

Several youth specific stakeholders stressed the need for employment service providers to be able to operate in ways that are cognisant of the multiple
pressures newly-arrived and refugee young people face in their initial settlement period (6-12 months).

A very small number of stakeholders made positive reference to the funding of employment service coordinators by DEEWR as a good initiative towards
addressing some of the barriers to access.

5.5 Government, employment and training policies

(a) Does government employment and training policy and program design meet the needs of African Australians? Please give reasons in your answer.
(i) Community

Overall, most community participants felt that government employment training policies and programs had failed to meet the needs of African

Specific policies identified as being particularly problematic included:

  • the high cost and complexity of overseas qualifications and skills recognition assessment processes prevents many having labour skills
    recognised and utilised
  • currently English language training provided through the Commonwealth Government Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) does not enable most
    humanitarian entrants to acquire English language competence to a level required for VET and employment
  • the impact of limited day care places for children, and associated costs, influences the ability of parents to attend English classes
  • due to limited language and educational backgrounds many African humanitarian entrants do not have a level of English language competency, study
    skills or life skills to access or succeed in VET
  • there are currently no programs addressing the transition to work requirements of 15 to 18 year olds, which is of particular concern given the
    current high unemployment rate within the African refugee group
  • Centrelink pressures to get a job forcing people to accept positions that lock them into underemployment or jobs that are not aligned with
    background qualifications
  • the current model for career counselling, which is based on a self-help model, is problematic for African humanitarian entrants who may not be
    familiar with computers or service systems in Australia
  • one fee-free translation per document category was not sufficient, for example, for employment and education purposes.

'I'd prefer to work with less pay in a place where I don't have to explain and defend myself as a Sudanese. There are many good people in Australia who
are willing to support and teach us how to live in Australia. I spend more than a year doing English language and I learn nothing but since I meet my
Australian neighbour and start going shopping with her start speak English and make plan for shopping.

(Participant, Community Consultations, NT)

(ii) Stakeholders

The responses provided to this question varied considerably amongst stakeholders, and differed between states.

Positive responses made referred to the following policies and programs:

  • Humanitarian entrants can access the Special Preparatory Program (SPP), which consists of an additional 100 hours before the 510 hours commence.
    The SPP provides an important initial introduction to formal learning for those who have had little or no previous formal education overseas. The SPP
    entitlement is 400 hours for students under 25 years of age who have fewer than eight years of education
  • AMEP students who require additional English language training are also eligible for 400 hours of tuition (some humanitarian entrants are
    eligible for 800 hours) through the Commonwealth Government Language Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP). Alternatively, AMEP students have the option
    of enrolling in migrant English courses at TAFE
  • Enterprise Facilitation is having some success in supporting African Australians who are keen to start or expand small businesses. It has also
    had some success in linking those with the passion and skills for their product or service with professionals who have expertise in business,
    marketing, finance and so on.

Critical comments made by stakeholder respondents included:

  • these programs do not offer specialist support services to humanitarian entrants and the competency level required to exit these programs is
    Certificate III in English
  • Language studies which are only suitable for low-level employment. Moreover, providers report that progress to certificate level achievement is
    not common. Additionally, LLNP providers only issue certificates on request, which means that students are often unaware that they are able to obtain
    recognition for their studies.
  • Sponsored Humanitarian Entrants (SHPs) are further disadvantaged as they do not receive automatic assessment for English classes by AMEP
    providers on arrival. Once in receipt of Centrelink benefits, SHPs are automatically referred to a Job Network Provider (JNP) that may refer them to
    the LLNP for training until their English language competencies are considered at a suitable level for employment
  • The competitive tendering funding model discourages coordination and communication between providers and adversely affect the advice provided by
    organisations when informing clients about the range of options available to them
  • as Job Network funding is dependent on specified outcomes, it is interpreted that this can result in placement of some clients in low level
    employment, which requires a low level of English competency, rather than encouraging further education and training to pursue more highly skilled

Several stakeholders identified the need for much greater collaboration between all levels of government and service providers.

Several stakeholders were of the view that the federal Government's Employment Services Model would hopefully address many of the barriers and
challenges to employment and training for African Australians, particularly those who are newly arrived or have a refugee background.

It was thought that the emphasis on individually tailored interventions and the provision of work experience should have an especially positive impact
on African Australians, particularly those from newly-arrived communities, if implemented appropriately.

(iii) Public submissions

Issues relating to government, employment and training policies were addressed by one third (45%) of the submissions.

The main issues discussed were:

  • African Australians' overseas qualifications not being recognised by employment agencies or employers
  • government immigration policies negatively impacting employment and training.

5.6 Employment opportunities

(a) What are the key challenges faced by African Australians in finding and retaining employment (e.g. recognition of qualifications, English
language requirements etc.)?
(i) Community

Consultations with community members consistently identified the following key challenges in finding and retaining employment:

  • racial and religious discrimination
  • lack of extended family networks and social supports
  • English language difficulties
  • problems having overseas skills, training, qualifications and experience recognised
  • employers requiring 'experience'
  • limited access to affordable housing proximate to workplaces and not serviced by appropriate public transport
  • delays and difficulties obtaining Australian citizenship, restricting job opportunities
  • difficulties obtaining a driver's licence, narrowing employment opportunities
  • knowing where and how to obtain information about employment opportunities and accessing vacancies
  • lack of knowledge of the Australian workplace and employment conditions
  • many refugee and humanitarian entrants to Australia do not have the supporting documentation required to prove qualifications gained in their
    country of birth
  • often professional associations are reluctant to allow entry to immigration professionals into professional practice.

"I come from a country where English is an official language. I believe that I speak excellent English and have received this feedback from Australian
friends. But every time I get on the phone to speak to a possible employer I am told that my accent is not understandable and that communication skills
are a pre-requisite for the position. If I can't even get past the telephone then what chance do I have?"

(Participant, Community Focus Group, Tas)

"People who are running for their lives are not going to stop to pick up their documentation.. just in case they have difficulties later on in their
new country, like employment. Really, this is something that employers need to be made aware of."

(Participant, community consultations, ACT)

"The 'catch 22' situation in which the job seeker needs experience to get the job, but can't get the job to get that experience, is a reality for many
African Australian jobseekers."

(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholder consultations identified the following key challenges faced by African Australians in finding and retaining employment:

  • English language difficulties when seeking to access the labour market
  • lack of awareness of employment assistance programs/services
  • difficulties in getting overseas training and qualifications recognised
  • the costs for bridging courses and supplementary examinations are prohibitive
  • requirement by employers to have Australian based workplace experience
  • racial and religious discrimination
  • prerequisites such as Australian citizenship can be limiting.
(iii) Public submissions

Issues relating to employment opportunities were addressed by more than half (60%) of the submissions.

While a number of individuals said they had positive experiences when securing employment in Australia, many said they faced several barriers.

Some of the barriers to employment presented in the submissions include:

  • inadequate post-arrival settlement information
  • lack of knowledge of how to access appropriate services
  • case managers not being appropriately informed about African Australian culture and refugee experiences
  • poor job search, networking, interview and resume skills
  • lack of recognition of qualifications
  • lack of appropriate service provision by job employment agencies
  • lack of 'meaningful' employment opportunities
  • the need to find work as soon as possible contributing to a lack of opportunity to secure meaningful employment
  • difficulties for refugees to acquire skills to enter labour market
  • language difficulties
  • lack of cultural awareness by employers
  • prejudicial perceptions that African Australians are lazy, unskilled and unreliable
  • lack of appropriate childcare options
  • lack of appropriate transport options
  • under-employment or employment below capacity can lead to deskilling
  • government employment policies do not meet African Australian communities' needs
  • lack of self-esteem and other health issues.
(b) What can be done to increase employment opportunities for African Australians?
(i) Community

Overall, community respondents called for an increase in the number of more culturally appropriate job readiness strategies and the establishment of a
job placement model that includes individualised support with a focus on assisting in skills recognition, providing local workplace knowledge, and
mentoring. Community respondents also suggested community initiatives could assist to develop, promote and deliver appropriate bridging courses.
Suggestions raised included:

  • information and awareness raising programs for African Australians in relation to Australian workplace environments and workplace cultures
  • better utilisation of Multicultural Employment Consultants
  • Information about available complaints mechanisms and lodging complaints about discrimination.

The following good practice examples were provided by community respondents:

Centrelink Multicultural Services WA
Workshops conducted by Centrelink Multicultural Services WA in consultation with African community leaders and in partnership with a wide range of
stakeholders involved in the provision of employment services developed a series of workshops aimed at enhancing African community leaders' expertise,
capacity and knowledge of Australian government systems and policies, particularly in relation to employment. Feedback from community leaders suggests
that the workshops were extremely successful because they offered practical advice in relation to employment issues and the Australian workplace.
Work It Out
Work It Out is a work experience program for migrants and humanitarian entrants in the Adult Migrant English Program at TAFE Tasmania which helps prepare migrants
for the workplace, acting as a 'stepping stone' on the pathway to employment.
To accompany Work It Out, resources targeted at employers and workplace mentors have also been developed as a way of building awareness of the
needs of migrants, encouraging local business to take migrants on for work experience, and to give strategies on how to overcome communication barriers
and increase cultural awareness in the workplace.
(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders suggested the following actions or strategies could be implemented to increase employment opportunities for African Australians:

  • simpler processes around the recognition and crediting of overseas employment experience
  • employer education to ensure a better understanding of the assets and capabilities of African Australian migrants and refugees
  • additional incentives need to be provided to employers who hire refugees and humanitarian entrants.

"If you don't actually increase the awareness of employers around the range of skills that African Australians bring, then no amount of changing
programs or introducing other processes is going to make one ounce of difference. In my view, the issues are largely attitudinal or based on
misconceptions of what African Australians bring with them when they come to Australia in terms of skills sets. We really need to highlight the message
that employers are missing out big time."

(Stakeholder, NSW)

Migrant Resource Centres and some Legal Aid offices are providing training to employers on the refugee experience and obligations under
anti-discrimination legislation, in an effort to encourage employers to avoid discriminatory employment practices. Successful programs have also been
run educating employers about the benefits of hiring humanitarian entrants who, following appropriate induction and training, typically have levels of
commitment that will improve productivity and reduce staff turnover.

The following programs were cited as examples of good practice in relation to increasing employment opportunities for African Australians:

African Virtual Network - National Multicultural Reference Group, Centrelink
Early in 2008, Centrelink facilitated 26 community dialogues with 349 representatives of refugee and humanitarian customers from African backgrounds.
The sessions were held in 21 locations nationally to better understand the service delivery challenges facing these customers.
A 'virtual network' of 250 member contacts was subsequently created. The network is a pivotal gateway between Centrelink and African communities, and
enables Centrelink to disseminate information and provide progress updates on issues raised.
Centrelink also produced a variety of information products, including CDs in various African languages such as Amharic, Dinka, Kirundi, Krio, Swahili
and Tigrinya.
Please see:
STEPS Employment and Training Solutions (Tasmania)
STEPS Employment and Training Solutions, an employment, training and community development organisation, with the support of the Office of Post
Compulsory Education and Training (now Skills Tasmania) developed a video as part of a broad strategy to encourage local employers to consider recently
arrived refugees when recruiting staff. The broad strategy included conducting an awareness-raising function at an African restaurant for Job Network
providers, Australian Apprenticeships Scheme and group training companies to meet African employees and their employers where the video was shown.
Please see:
(iii) Public submissions

A number of recommendations for increasing employment opportunities were offered in the submissions. They include:

  • provide more specialised living and employment skills programs, including:

    • establish a Government agency that specifically manages a work experience program for refugees
    • provide appropriate career counselling, employment readiness skills training and mentoring programs
    • provide work-related English skills training
    • provide drivers' education, particularly in rural areas where it is seen as vital
    • provide childcare services for women
  • increase AMEP services
  • establish community advocates
  • encourage employers and workplace staff to attend cross-cultural training
  • provide realistic career counselling for students
  • provide more interpreters, including appropriate information about accessing interpreters
  • provide more accessible information.
(c) What are the health, social and cultural impacts of unemployment and underemployment for African Australians?
(i) Community

There were a multitude of health, social and cultural impacts of unemployment and underemployment identified throughout the community consultations.
Those most commonly cited included:

  • impact on intergenerational disadvantage
  • decline in confidence and sense of disillusionment
  • low self-esteem
  • family breakdowns
  • boredom through inactivity and not having anything worthwhile to occupy their time
  • being locked into lowly paid jobs with little opportunity for career progression or upward mobility
  • many reported having to reduce their household budgets by deleting leisure and social activities leading to increased difficulty for all family
    members in integrating into Australian society.
  • social isolation
  • depression and frustration can result as well as a sense of alienation from the wider community.

"We came here for our children, and we want them to feel that they are part of this society. But when they see us working in cleaning jobs or retail
jobs, when some of us have been teachers, doctors.... and they then think that there is no hope for them."

(Community leader, SA)

Community respondents reported feeling embarrassed and ashamed because they did not have a job. This also included a loss of self-respect, self-esteem
and being respected by their family members:

"When I arrived in Australia I felt useless because I was not doing anything, I had worked all my life; I felt I was begging because I was taking money
for free, and in the end I didn't believe in my ability to return to work. Like all refugees I had a dream and a hope when I left the camp; I had ideas
about rebuilding my life, but when I reached Australia I was faced with reality and confusion. The longer I spent on social security the lower my self
esteem became."

Participants agreed that unemployment was a factor that contributed to problems in the family. As men become more frustrated with their loss of social
status and self-esteem in the public sphere they stated that they fought harder to maintain their position as head of the family and this often led to
increased disruption in a previously smooth running household.

A considerable number of respondents also spoke of the fact that many African Australians not only have their immediate families to support, but often
overseas relatives who are in precarious situations and expect financial assistance from them.

(d) As an African Australian, if you have not had difficulty in securing employment in Australia, please tell us about it and some of the reasons
that contributed to your success.
(i) Community

Responses to this question varied considerably from state to state and also from target group to target group. While the overwhelming number of
examples cited considerable and at times insurmountable challenges and difficulties in obtaining employment, there were some who conveyed more positive
experiences. These tended, however, to be characterised by the following factors:

  • the extent to which the community (ethno specific) was established (for example, years of settlement for that particular community overall)
  • the extent to which family/social support networks were available
  • immigration stream - with skilled migrants suggesting more positive experiences of obtaining employment than those arriving under the family
    stream or as refugees/humanitarian entrants (but not always)
  • age - younger and older workers reported having a much more difficult time obtaining employment than those who might fall within 30-40 years age
  • levels of English language fluency - those with higher levels of functional English and no 'apparent' accent more likely to obtain employment
  • type of industry/occupation - greater demand for particular occupational groups contributed to improvements in job prospects.

Those who were most likely to report positive experiences of obtaining gainful employment were individuals who had obtained employment through family

"It is a small business that is operated by my cousin who was looking for some extra help and he offered me a job. I am very lucky... I know people who
came here around the same time as I did [six months ago] and are still looking for work. At least I can support my family."

(Community Participant, NSW)

Extended families are clearly important to the establishment and operations of small businesses which is reportedly increasing amongst various African
Australian communities:

"Small businesses like remittance businesses or travel agencies are growing in our communities and these are often run by and then sustained by
extended family members."

(Community Participant, Vic))

(ii) Public submissions

One positive experience cited included:

"My employment and training experiences in Australia have been positive. I migrated from East Africa as a skilled migrant. I first stayed in
Adelaide… [where] I participated in a program called Interlink; aimed at assisting migrants secure jobs. I received some training on job
application and preparation for interviews. My overseas qualification was recognised in Australia. I did a volunteer job in Adelaide. This role
equipped me with the relevant skills that assisted me in my job search…. I was delighted to get a job after moving to Melbourne."


5.7 Discrimination in employment and training

(a) Can you provide examples of how African Australians are treated differently when seeking employment and/or training?
(i) Community

There were many examples of negative, differential treatment, most of which was perceived as discriminatory and racist.

"In order to make a contribution to Australian society we need to shift the negative perceptions to the positive. The way politicians send the message
out is that the refugees are coming here to be supported and fed. That is how employers are seeing us."

Some examples cited included:

  • difficulties getting interviews because of accents or unfamiliar names
  • getting interviews but then feeling discriminated against once employers have sighted them (perception that this is based on skin colour or
    other visible difference such as wearing the hijab)
  • being bypassed for promotion
  • being told to seek alternative employment pathways despite qualifications or skills.

When I first came in 2004 I was doing an English course. The teacher said to me that now that I was in Australia I would need to take the scarf off.
She said this is Australia, and so I had freedom here which means that I can take the scarf off. This is my religion, and so this should at least be
respected. She said that she thought that your father or mother forced you to wear the hijab. For me being an African is hard enough, but being a
Muslim African is a major issue. I face discrimination getting employment most because I am a Muslim woman.

Discrimination within mainstream organisations that delivered programs to African Australians was also identified by some community respondents as
being discriminatory. Examples were given where African Australian workers were paid less money than their Anglo Australian counterparts for the same
work, where there was very little support or career progression opportunities made available and situations where they were required to undertake work
not in their job descriptions, but solely because the issue involved "someone from the African community".

"It really makes me angry that some of these services parade around the fact that they have African workers on their staff.. but when you look closely
you can see that we are not paid the same, that when the program funding finishes we are the first to go.. this is discrimination, and just because
it's a community service that is actually helping the communities doesn't mean this should be allowed to be ok."

(Community respondent, Vic)

(ii) Public submissions

Issues relating to discrimination in employment and training were addressed by half (50%) of the submissions.

Various forms of discrimination cited in the submissions included:

  • lack of qualification recognition, such as examples of African Australians with University degrees being employed only as manual labourers
  • lack of advancement opportunities, both with employers and within industries
    "I have been there for almost two years now but there is no indication that the system will ever want to staff develop me at all. All my white
    colleagues, who have come after me, are given the opportunity to experience each and every activity that takes place at the company. But I am stuck to
    just one area... Whenever I go to the supervisors for them to give me hands on teaching on something they give me the manual which I will have no time
    to read because I am supposed to be working."

    ( S46)
  • perception of being passed over for a white candidate
  • racist treatment by fellow employees
  • persistence of a racially segregated market
  • multiple barriers to lodging complaints including fear of losing their job, lack of confidence in English skills, lack of knowledge about
    employee rights and responsibilities, fears of implications for family reunion applications, possible negative impact on community, not feeling
(b) What is the impact of this discrimination?
(i) Community

The impact of discrimination was considered to be extremely serious by community respondents. The impact of discrimination on people's sense of
belongingness was frequently discussed:

"How can you feel Australian when you are always being told to go back to where you came from? I am where I came from. I was born here!!"

"This is destroying people who have so much to give this country. Please give us a chance to show that we have a lot to give"

Several community respondents shared their experiences of taking up jobs well short of their qualifications as a result of being repeatedly subjected
to discrimination:

"Once or twice you put it down to bad luck or a bad person, but when you are having to deal with discrimination week after week, and your savings are
running out, then you just start applying for any job that comes up. In the end it doesn't matter what it is... what matters is that you can feed
yourself and your family."

(Participant, Community Focus Group, Tas)

(ii) Stakeholders

Stakeholders cited:

  • loss of occupational status among skilled African Australians
  • increasingly being concentrated in low-skilled service 'niches' such as cleaning services, transport (especially taxi-driving), security and
    building industries, and increasingly, aged care
  • loss of human capital benefits to Australia and a waste of skills currently in short supply.
(c) How can African Australian workers be made aware of and supported to exercise their rights in relation to discrimination in the workplace?
(i) Community

Respondents suggested that while ideally, African Australian workers should be made aware of and supported to exercise their rights in relation to
discrimination in the workplace, the reality is that often most are simply too fearful of making a complaint.

"They [African Australians] do not have the bargaining power in the workplace to challenge these conditions themselves. The fear of losing their job is
often perceived as outweighing the benefit of seeking external sanction, advice or support."

There were nevertheless many examples provided during the consultations of information strategies aimed at increasing awareness amongst African
Australians of their right to complain in the event of perceived discrimination. Broadly, these strategies can be grouped under the following themes:

  • facilitating and delivering language specific information sessions about discrimination in the workplace
  • providing guest speakers from anti discrimination and human rights agencies to multicultural interagency meetings.
  • working collaboratively with individuals and agencies including ethnic community workers from community settlement workers; Migrant Resource
    Centres; DIAC, Centrelink; multicultural inter-agency networks and Ethnic Communities Liaison Officers
  • working with language specific media, including SBS and community radio, community newspapers and community newsletters to provide accessible
    information in the relevant languages
  • disseminating information in relevant community languages to places frequented by members of the target communities, for example, places of
    worship, shops, restaurants, clubs and community centres
  • disseminating information through migrant expos, ethno-specific events, fairs and so on.
(ii) Stakeholders

Several stakeholders suggested that making a complaint should be simpler, with an easy-to-understand complaint form available in a variety of community
languages. They said it was important to be able to make complaints orally, by telephone or in person, and individuals should be able to complain on
behalf of others or as representatives of communities or groups.

They said advice about the complaint process should be made available at various community locations, libraries, medical centres and shopfronts.

5.8 The effect of religion, age, gender, sexuality and disability

(a) Are experiences of employment and training different for African Australians based on religion, age, gender, sexuality or disability? Please
provide reasons in your answer.
(i) Community

Muslim African Australians, in particular, conveyed the view that they faced additional challenges due to their religious identity. Indeed, a
substantial number of respondents argued that while racism was identified in consultations, prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in the
workplace, on the grounds of their religious identity, has never been directly addressed:

"Religious discrimination is sometimes worse for me than racism, if I can separate my colour from my religion, because it's more underhanded. Racism
often stares you directly in the face, but religious discrimination.. that's harder to argue."

(Community respondent, Vic)

Most respondents agreed that many put up with negative behaviour in fear of further discrimination or losing their job or being subjected to some kind
of retaliation.

Several stakeholders, however, expressed the view that better information about Islam targeting at employers would probably ameliorate the negative
experiences in the workplace considerably:

"I'm not sure that for me it is actually discrimination. I think it's that people don't understand why I do things like pray and fast. I think if there
was some cultural and religious awareness, this might be solved"

(Community respondent, WA)

Women, particularly African Muslims, spoke of feeling generally more vulnerable to exploitation around workplace arrangements. Several women also spoke
of their experiences of sexual harassment:

"Sometimes it feels like its a challenge for these men to see if they can get to a Muslim women. The stereotypes around our sexuality are quite
extraordinary. So I regularly have to put up with statements like, well you look pretty but then Muslim women don't want to be pretty do they. Really
awful stuff that gets a bit much when you have to put up with it every day"

(Community respondent, SA)

The issue of discrimination experienced by Muslim women who wear the hijab when they apply for work was extremely well canvassed by almost every focus
group involving Muslim women. Some women who wore the hijab reported being given incorrect information regarding job availability, while others spoke
of feeling that they were denied the opportunity to apply for jobs, or made to feel invisible and unwelcome when applying.

Older people

A small number of consultations highlighted the particular challenges for older African Australians in trying to access meaningful employment and
training opportunities. Refugees and those who arrive in Australia through the Family Reunion Program at a mature age are the most disadvantaged,
because they have to start to learn English and new trade skills to have access in the labour market and upgrade their general working skills.

Added to these disadvantages there is sometimes employer bias against older workers: they may be considered less productive than younger workers,
because of perceived reduced capacity and inadaptability. Employers are sometimes reluctant to invest in training older workers, because their working
life is relatively limited compared with younger workers.