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Finding work the focus of Syrian refugee

17 October 20160 comments

Amer Gerges’ final decision to leave behind his home and his life behind came when artillery shells slammed into buildings near his home during fighting between ISIS and the Syrian army and leaving much of his neighbourhood in ruins.

Mr Gerges is a Syrian refugee and a Christian who fled his home near Hasakah when ISIS forces approached his neighbourhood.

“We were very afraid because ISIS do not want Christians in the Middle East. When they came near to Hasakah it was very bad because there was no chance to work or do anything,” said Mr Gerges, who worked as carpenter and cabinet maker in Syria.

amer-gergesHe fled to Lebanon with his parents and brother and spent a year and nine months living in difficult circumstances with little money and no work.

“In Beirut things were very hard. The cost of living was very high and it was difficult to afford to buy food and pay the rent,” he said.

After being granted a humanitarian visa, Mr Gerges and his family came to Melbourne where his sister has lived for nine years.

“I want to thank the Australian Government and embassy for giving me a visa. It is a chance for a new start and a new life here in Australia,” he said.

He said he appreciates the safety and security to be found in Australia.

“I hope to improve my English and get work. I am used to working 10 or 12 hours a day and I feel bad when I can’t work. I don’t want to just sit at home,” Mr Gerges said.

Now Mr Gerges is benefiting from an innovative new program run by settlement agency AMES Australia aimed at fast-tracking refugees into employment launched recently in Melbourne.

He said the Industry Workplace Employability Program (IWAP) course was proving very helpful.

“The course at AMES is teaching me about how to get a job in Australia. We are learning about safety rules and where to find opportunities for work,” Mr Gerges said.

“I hope I can find work and show Australian people that I am grateful to be here,” he said.

The IWAP course aims to deliver a tailored six-month employment program that utilises the strengths of refugee clients and focuses on specific cohorts to help them get jobs.

The first pilot of program commenced recently at settlement agency AMES Australia’s Broadmeadows centre and involved 20 jobseekers, many of them recent refugees from the Syrian conflict.

The jobseekers are given language tuition relevant to the workplace, they are introduced to work brokers and given an understanding of Australian workplace culture.

They are also exposed to guest speakers from industry areas and given work placement opportunities.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the program was very exciting.

“Most of the students in the program are refugees who have been in Australia up to two years and have not been able to find meaningful work,” Ms Scarth said.

“We believe this program will help them finally find employment pathways.

“Already, in just a few weeks, we are seeing improvements in the students’ job seeking skills, their employability and their understanding of Australian workplaces.”

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist