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Meaningful employment opportunities for refugee and immigrant jobseekers

Meaningful employment opportunities for refugee and immigrant jobseekers; stories, learnings and a brighter future was an event that illuminated the unique struggles and triumphs of these jobseekers.

Showcasing a compilation of personal narratives, the event (proudly sponsored by AECOM and John Holland) delved into the journeys that refugees and immigrants undertake to secure meaningful employment and how these experienced shaped their lives.

Dr Frédéric Blin hosted the evening at the AECOM office to a packed audience with Ali Rahmini (co-chair of the Young Water Professionals Committee AWA Victoria) as the MC for the evening.

Our guest presenters outlined their career history and journey.  

Niru Gosavi, General Manager, Major Capital Delivery at Melbourne Water  

Niru is a professional civil engineer, with over 38 years’ experience in the private and public sector and is committed to key social value initiatives such as Melbourne Water’s “Pathways Migrant Development Program” and the “Wara Paring Indigenous Project” – creating the first of its kind 100% Aboriginally Owned Civil Construction Business. ​He has worked in 12 cities and five countries. 

Niru spoke about his background and family in India; his difficult childhood and the many challenges he had to overcome. He emphasised the importance of resilience and having a dream  

He migrated from India to New Zealand and had to face many rejections before landing a job, despite his 30 years of experience when he landed in Australia and found it very difficult to get a job, so he has a deep understanding and empathy for the barriers that migrants face.   

Lucy Gatto, Educator and Industry Liaison at Melbourne Polytechnic, Overseas Qualified Professionals program

Lucy has facilitated transition into professional employment for countless overseas qualified professionals, by providing them with connections to industry and professional bodies. She spoke about the difficulties migrants can face even when very qualified; the program she runs at Melbourne polytechnic offers 12-week unpaid industry placement, helps participants find matching employers and attain certificate III module. About a third secure work during the program and the bulk secure work once they have finished the program.  

Glenn Crisp, Regional Construction Manager at John Holland 

Glenn Crisp is an advocate of recruiting in a way that gives marginalised groups a better chance of professional employment whilst also supporting a more diverse workforce. Glenn came to Australia from Zimbabwe and knows it’s not easy to come to a new country and start again. He has been instrumental in the establishment of a formal training program for people who are struggling to break into the industry, despite demands for engineers to work on new infrastructure projects.  

Martha Abegaz Gebre, Junior engineer at John Holland 

Born and raised in Ethiopia East Africa, Martha recently moved to Australia, after completing her BSc. in Construction Technology and Management at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.  

She is currently working as a Junior Engineer at John Holland on the Western Treatment Plant ‘Bundle project’.  

Martha spoke about the importance of her father’s encouragement to study engineering in Ethiopia. Martha was able to find a job within two months and is very happy to be working in the water industry. She talked about the biggest barrier being language and grappling with different learning processes.  

Abdul Gulistani, Construction Manager at John Holland  

Abdul arrived in Australia from Afghanistan as a qualified engineer, he first worked at a cherry farm and also painted houses as a second job to provide for this family. He then landed a job in construction and was introduced to the CareerSeekers program.  

Abdul spoke about his experience trying to move from the farm job to more professional opportunities and talked about the difficulty of communicating in English and navigating new terminology and cultural differences. 

The John Holland pathway program is through a formal agreement with career seekers. 60% of participants continue employment with John Holland.  

Anafrid Bennet, Head of Technology, Security and Property at Greater Western Water  

Anafrid's achievements include being named a highly commended 'One to Watch in IT Security' by the Australian Women in Security Awards and ranked 4th in the 2022 CSO#30. She was also awarded the ‘Next CIO to watch’ award in the 2023 CIO#50. 

Anafrid spoke about her personal journey as an immigrant from South India. She grew up speaking Tamil, studying computer science engineering in India and came to Australia with her family nine years ago with two young sons.  

She talked about how she mapped out her career vision and plan, how to build connections and practical advice on preparing for interviews. 

Greater Western Water has a strong diversity, equality and inclusion policy and is partnering with Victoria University and engaging strongly in the local community to attract diverse talent and skills to the organisation. 39% of Greater Western Water employees were born overseas.  

Where to from now?

It's crucial to underscore that this discussion is an ongoing and vital one for the water sector. We hope through dispelling misconceptions surrounding the employment of immigrant and refugee jobseekers that this event fosters a climate of understanding and inclusivity in our communities.

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