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New research into study and job barriers for refugee youth

12 October 20160 comments

New research hopes to fill a gap in understanding of how young refugees make the transition to further education and employment and develop the resilience to build successful lives post settlement.

A new study at the University of South Australia’s Schools of Nursing will explore the success of different factors in helping and supporting young refugees – many who have experienced some trauma – into work, education and a state of wellbeing.

ames_664Lead research and senior lecturer Dr Tahereh Ziaian says that while there is a growing body of literature to support the case that adult refugees make a positive impact on the nation’s skill level, the focus on children and adolescents is relatively overlooked, particularly in Australia.

She says until recently, the literature on migration and education outcomes has also failed to take account of the experiences of refugees as a distinct group from other migrants.

“Young refugees have enormous potential to enrich our culture and make a contribution but often they face unique set of barriers to completing higher education and finding employment, making it difficult for them to excel in a new and unfamiliar environment,” Dr Ziaian said.

“Our project responds to ethical and social justice concerns because it will contribute new insights, resulting in significant improvements to the long-term employment opportunities of refugee youth.

“Our previous research shows that young refugees are at increased risk of developing mental health problems and have trouble accessing support services, but despite those obstacles most are coping extremely well.

“They are actually defying the odds, exceeding society’s expectations and proving they have the resilience to push through obstacles,” she said.

Dr Ziaian said she believed much more could be done to help young refugees transition from school into further education and become productive Australian citizens.

“The evidence suggests that any investment in support for young refugees will pay off,” she said.

“We need to break down discriminatory barriers to employment to give young refugees the chance to show what they can do.”

Through the study, Dr Ziaian and her team hope to influence education, training and employment practices by defining the services and factors young refugees need to maintain their resilience and actively participate in the community.

Dr Ziaian said she and her team were focused on ensuring local outcomes make a national impact.

“We expect our results will be a valuable reference point for Australian decision-makers in the education and employment sectors and offer significant findings to inform state and federal policy,” Dr Ziaian says.

As part of the three-year study, the team will survey 600 young refugees from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa who have migrated to Australia during or after 2003.

Data will be collected from refugees aged 15-24 years, their parents or primary caregivers, and their schoolteachers.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Staff Writer