Jan 19, 2017

Given the Chance: From Refugee to Personal Care Assistant

I was born in February 1972 in my hometown Oghada, Nigeria. When I was six years old, I lost my father so I was taken to Lagos in 1978. I went to school there, both my primary and secondary school, and completed my HSC in Maths and Statistics.

I then went to university and did my Bachelors in Environmental Science. While I was at university we had problems with Muslim extremists who had a connection to the Boko Haram extremists from the north.

That lead me to flee to Australia in 2013. I arrived in Australia July 24th and immediately I had to apply for a Protection Visa with immigration. My request was granted and the processing of my visa was in progress.

During that process I was very isolated in the job market in Australia. I found that my education, certificate and training in Nigeria were not compatible with the working environment in Australia.

I was advised to undergo any certificate course which could give me an upper-hand in the job market here. And that led to my aged care Certificate III course. Afterwards, despite being a new graduate, it didn’t really give me the advantage in the job market that I had been hoping for. The biggest challenge was my lack of experience.

Most of the other employees I knew here had gone through agencies to secure a job. But the difference was that they already had experience, that pushed me into a corner where I considered “not useful” due to my inexperience in the field.

Given the Chance

That was until I was able to have a connection with Brotherhood of St Lawrence because they operated an sort of “unemployment program” then called Given the Chance. So in 2015 I became one of their unemployment graduate program applicants there.

I was very fortunate that that was the period where the Brotherhood of St Lawrence was trying to create an affiliated employment program with Benetas, an aged care provider. I think I was one of the first there who was trialled as a sort of litmus test for the program – to see if it could really work.

We were brought to Benetas in September 17th, 2015. The condition was, since experience wasn’t a requirement, that I would have to go through a probationary period of 6 months for them to brush us up to their own standard. It was also for them to also see if I had a personality that fit well in their facility, something that would really attract them to give me full employment.

It was during that period that I was able to prove myself and fortunately on March 17th, which was the last day of my 6 month probationary period, I was accepted and taken in as full time employee at the Gladswood Lodge facility in Brunswick West.

Caring for the Elderly: Things that bring me Joy

I feel great now as a Personal Care Assistant. It’s important for me that whatever I do gives me joy. That is where my area of interest is – things that bring me happiness.

My advice for young people and young refugees is to look for opportunities like what I found. When you have an opportunity like this, it gives you an chance to showcase some of your your talents and skills that may have been hidden before. That is what will give you a chance. There are refugees and migrants that are good people and that are talented, but the chance hasn’t been given to them.

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