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Maya makes a life in Melbourne

In 2015, Maya moved to Australia from Sudan to join her husband, who had arrived in Melbourne as a refugee. They shared a flat with her brother-in-law and his family and lived in one bedroom with their newborn baby.

As a result of her living situation, Maya was constantly stressed, and suffered from periods of depression. She felt ashamed to be living off support payments. In Sudan, she had been a senior engineer with an MBA, and she was frustrated at her inability to find work in her field.

Maya contacted Jesuit Social Services’ Settlement team for assistance finding accommodation for her family. The team helped Maya, her husband and their daughter move into a flat of their own. This was a positive step for Maya – but she still found herself struggling to find employment.

A lack of local experience and networks are major barriers to overseas-born engineers finding work. Research from Engineers Australia indicates 47 per cent of qualified migrant engineers were unemployed across Australia in 2021.

Maya knew Jesuit Social Services provided employment programs and so, she contacted our Jobs Victoria Employment Service team. She was paired with an experienced Employment Mentor, who helped her prepare a cover letter and resume, and practice interview techniques. She was then referred to a job with the Victorian Level Crossing Authority, where she successfully navigated the recruitment process.

Maya worked on the level crossings for six months while her Employment Mentor continued looking for opportunities. Maya was referred to our Melbourne Water Pathways Program – a joint initiative between Melbourne Water and Jesuit Social Services, which employs people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who have experienced significant barriers to employment in their field. Now in its fourth year, the program offers opportunities across Melbourne Water including in IT, asset management, major capital projects and process engineering.

Maya was successful in gaining a two-year opportunity to work as a Project Engineer on Melbourne Water’s major projects team. A lot has now changed for her.

“The quality of my life has changed. I have a good income. I can put my daughters through childcare. I can plan to give them a good education. I also hope to be able to apply for a bank loan to buy a house. This is my dream; to secure a house or a flat for my daughters.”

When Maya was asked what the support from Jesuit Social Services meant for her, she did not hesitate.

“It has meant a life for me.”