New platform seeks to match skilled refugees with SA companies looking for new ideas

Source: Adelaide Now

Refugee Intern co-founders Nirary Dacho and Anna Robson with the chief executive of Welcome to Australia, Mohammad Al-Khafaji (centre). Picture: Dean Martin

Refugee Intern co-founders Nirary Dacho and Anna Robson with the chief executive of Welcome to Australia, Mohammad Al-Khafaji (centre). Picture: Dean Martin

INNOVATION has been the buzzword of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership. Lost among his jobs and growth rhetoric, however, has been that the most effective — and probably cheapest — form of innovation is available from people who don’t yet have jobs.

That’s the view of two entrepreneurs whose platform provides an avenue for skilled refugees to get experience, or ideally an ongoing position, in their preferred sector.

Co-founders Anna Robson and Nirary Dacho — a Syrian refugee with a masters degree in web science — formulated Refugee Intern at a NSW hackathon event in November. Essentially, the online outlet connects, for a small fee, skilled refugees with companies for either short-term or ongoing roles. Work has already been found for 10 people.

With an initial east coast focus, 70 refugees have registered but the duo has now set its sights on South Australia.

Ms Robson, 29, said rather than refugees being seen as a threat to the existing labour market — as cited by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton during the federal election campaign — their resilience, ideas and skills should be viewed positively by potential employers.

“They bring global experience and often a new way of doing things. The business world can learn a lot from them,” she said.

“The response so far has been great from the private sector, so we’re confident that SA businesses will also see the benefits.”

Iraqi refugee Mohammad Al-Khafaji came to SA via Iran and Syria in 2003. The 27-year-old now heads up the Adelaide-based Welcome to Australia support network after previously working as a software engineer.

“We have civil engineers and project managers who worked for big, big companies back home and all they want is some local experience so they have confidence to go out and apply for jobs,” he said.

“Getting a leg in the door is the hardest thing and I think the corporate world has a social responsibility, but also a great opportunity, to diversify their workforce.

“What some of these people have been able to achieve in their home country with limited resources is quite incredible. They have different ideas and are some of the most entrepreneurial people you will ever meet.”

Mr Dacho, 29, is a case in point. He arrived in Australia with an extensive education and a host of experience. However, more than 100 job applications resulted in three unsuccessful job interviews. The problem, he was told, was a lack of local experience.

“When I said I recently arrived in Australia and hadn’t worked locally, that was it,” he said.

Mr Dacho’s plight took a positive turn after appearing in a television news story. He now has a three-month contract with Dolby.

“I’ve experienced the problem and now I want to solve it,” he said.

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