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Work for the Dole benefiting new arrivals

25 March 20151 comment
WFD participant, Go Lam

WFD participant, Go Lam

Newly arrived migrants and refugees are benefiting from the federal government’s Work for the Dole scheme which provides crucial exposure to, and experience of, Australian workplaces, according to a leading settlement agency.

Despite criticism of the scheme from academics and the not-for-profit sector who argue that it prevents young people from accessing training which could lead to employment, settlement agency AMES
says new arrivals to Australia are learning important lessons through the scheme.

The agency currently has up to 200 newly arrived migrant and refugee clients doing volunteer work with a range of community groups and charities.

AMES Employment Manager Maha Mohamed said Work for the Dole (WFD) was proving to be a significant pathway to permanent employment for many new arrivals to Australia.

“We are seeing many of our clients benefit from participating in Work for the Dole programs,” Ms Mohamed said.

“The scheme is giving many of our clients who are unfamiliar with the way things work in Australia exposure to real workplaces,” she said.

“They are learning about Australian workplace culture – which is different to many other countries; they are learning about what is expected in Australian workplaces and they are improving their English language skills, particularly in relation to the workplace.

“The clients are also learning about what a résumé and covering letter looks like in Australia. They also are able to provide references and records of employment after having completed a Work for the Dole program.

“But perhaps the most important factor of all is that getting out into the workplace and actually performing a meaningful role gives people confidence in themselves and the confidence needed to go out and find a real job,” she said.

Ms Mohamed said many of her clients resisted participating in Work for the Dole at first.

“There’s a notion that they’re working for nothing, but when they get to the employer they’re much more positive,” she said.

“Some have even got employment opportunities through Work for the Dole and in some cases it has given the client motivation to get out and get a real job,” Ms Mohamed said.

From July 1, all 18-30-year-olds who have been unemployed for more than a year will have to undertake 25 hours a week of volunteer work under a WFD scheme to qualify for Centrelink payments.

One WFD participant Burmese refugee Go Lam says participating in a WFD program has given her experience of an Australian workplace and confidence in herself.

The ethnic Zomi woman who fled the civil war in Burma says working amongst Australians in the office of a not-for-profit agency at St Albans, in Melbourne’s west, has helped her improve her English.

“I have been working for three months and the experience it has given me has been very good,” Ms Lam said.

“It has taught me about what it’s like to work in Australia and I hope to get a real job soon,” she said.

Firewen Ghiwet, a refugee from Africa has also been working for the dole with Footscray not-for-profit restaurant Lentil as Anything.

“The job is hard work but I like it, my English is getting better,” Firewen said.

Ms Mohamed said Firewen had the determination and ambition to succeed but needed encouragement and face-to-face training to develop her skills and language.

“Firewen’s workplace experience is building her confidence in her own abilities,” she said.

Assistant Federal Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker has said the scheme would help young unemployed people get back into the workforce.

“Work for the Dole is an important part of the Government’s plan to help young jobseekers gain the skills and experience they need to move from welfare to work and make a positive contribution to their local community,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“It provides participants with the chance to demonstrate many of the skills and behaviours that employers look for in candidates, such as commitment, teamwork and punctuality,” he said.

Sheree Peterson
AMES Staff Writer