Scholarships Help Refugees Overcome Financial Barriers to Work
19 September 2016 at 10:10 am
Refugees looking to get their foot on the career ladder are getting a step up with new scholarships worth more than $90,000 that will help them overcome the financial barriers to the workforce.
Not for Profit humanitarian organisation Settlement Services International (SSI) has teamed up with Allianz Australia to offer 46 scholarships to young refugees needing help with their school education and adults seeking local recognition for their qualifications.
The New South Wales program, now in its second year, offers scholarships, ranging from $500 to $5,000, across five categories, including primary and secondary school, vocational training, tertiary qualification and skills recognition.
SSI fundraising coordinator Therese Saad told Pro Bono Australia News the majority of applicants were already well educated, well trained and extremely knowledgeable and just needed some initial help to put them on the right path.
“When they come here on a humanitarian visa, the one thing that is stopping them from pursuing or finishing their education is the financial barrier that they face,” Saad said.
“So we are actually really quite proud of the scholarships, this way we can help them break the barrier between education and success by financially supporting them with what they need.
“Talking from last year, especially the ones in the tertiary level and the vocational education and training, they’re not just studying like an administration kind of role, these are masters of engineering or they have got the doctorate and all they really want is just recognition sometimes or they just want to finish off that last course.”
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said refugees who settle in Australia are often highly motivated to work but this didn’t automatically lead to employment.
“Refugees who lack Australian work experience, affordable options for the recognition of their skills and qualifications, and limited access to English language tuition, face barriers in the employment market,” Roumeliotis said.
“The SSI Allianz Scholarships will reduce the financial barriers experienced by refugees as they participate in the NSW education system.”
One of last year’s SSI scholarship beneficiaries was 20-year-old Syrian refugee Simon Issa, who received text books and a computer so he could complete his HSC.
Saad said it was inspiring to see where the scholarships could take people.
“[Simon] went to the Lebanon as a refugee but he wasn’t allowed to [go to school], so he worked two jobs for two years trying to provide for his family,” she said.
“Now he’s in Australia, he’s 20 years old and he’s about to finish his HSC… and he wants to study medicine and in 10 years time he wants to be a surgeon.
“So it’s kind of stories like that that really inspire and motivates us to help them further, and their progression in the Australian community and include them in social cohesion.”
Following funding from Allianz Australia the program is able to offer more scholarships than last year, particularly in the areas with the greatest demand such as secondary, vocational training and skills recognition.
Saad said it was “exciting” to see the program grow.
“Thanks to Allianz they’ve been able to provide us with funding that has allowed us to reach a lot more people and provide for a lot more of the refugees which is really exciting actually, we’re really happy about that,” she said.
“So this year we are offering 46 scholarships and last year we could only offer 36, so that is an extra 10 people that now in 10 years time could be a surgeon or engineer or could be mastering a whole new solar solution to global warming so it is exciting.”
Allianz Australia’s managing director, Niran Peiris said he was proud to help refugees receive an education and contribute to business.
“This scholarship program is about offering the support and opportunity for refugees to really make a difference at school, work and in the community,” Peiris said.
“This scholarship reflects Allianz’s absolute commitment to diversity. We know that a diverse workforce is a better workforce.”
Earlier this year Allianz also recruited nine new employees from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Vietnam, who came to Australia as refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
Roumeliotis said she was proud of what the partnership had achieved.
“As I said at the start of this partnership, Allianz and SSI both have a vision of playing a key support role in the community in the areas of education, employment and addressing social justice issues,” Roumeliotis said.
“Today, I’m proud of what that partnership has achieved so far, which is a new future for the new Allianz recruits and, through these scholarships, 46 more people will be given the opportunity that education offers.”
Applications for the scholarships close on 31 October 2016, with successful applicants being notified in December. For more information see here.