How the corporate sector can promote social cohesion

Supporting people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds into work ultimately benefits the entire community, writes Jesuit Social Services volunteer FRAN SHEAHAN.

“Job candidates with diverse experience contribute to companies.”

AAIP participant Rosi and her People Leader at NAB, Matt.

So says Rosi Matlhabaphiri-Quaremba, a graduate of the African-Australian Inclusion Program (AAIP), run in partnership between Jesuit Social Services and NAB. Despite being highly qualified and experienced in several countries including her native Botswana, Rosi had applied unsuccessfully for nearly 300 positions in Australia before engaging with the program.

We may well ask why this happens. When prospective employers require you to have Australian experience, when they think your accent is too strong, when they don’t give due value to the qualifications and experience you have outside Australia, then the blocks will seem insurmountable. Having a disability, being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, or being a migrant or a refugee are some of the other factors that can block the path to employment even for skilled people.

The lack of employment puts at risk such things as secure housing, the overall welfare of the person and their family, and the capacity to become active members of the community. For workplaces it also involves a lack of diversity of skilled workers which they need to be fully effective.

The good news is that there are ways to work around the blocks and even to start building something more constructive out of them for the long term: that requires belief in both the importance of relationship and the capacity of human beings to change. From the latest cohort who had six months’ employment at NAB via the AAIP, 93 per cent have gained employment within NAB or elsewhere in their chosen field. Success involves employment for participants but also greater awareness and effectiveness for NAB employees.

In our recent submission to the Victorian State Budget 2018/19, Jesuit Social Services we highlighted the need for further investments into Corporate Diversity Partnerships for culturally and linguistically diverse communities with high unemployment rates. Subsequently, the Victorian Government kindly provided funding support to expand this aspect of our work to other companies and Government organisations offering professional or corporate roles.

We know that programs such as those we deliver help more skilled, qualified people like Rosi into work – which ultimately fosters broader participation in society, creates role models among communities and has an enormously positive impact on those around the participants such as parents, siblings and children.

Providing opportunities in the corporate sector promotes social cohesion, and fast tracks the ability for members of newly arrived communities to make a meaningful contribution to local society.

Additionally, the employer benefits by opening up an untapped labour market of talented people, diversifying its workplace and boosting staff engagement.

We welcome the Victorian Government’s commitment to expanding diversity and inclusion programs – as they ultimately benefit us all, and are keen to hear from other corporate and government sector organisations interested in establishing a program.