The single largest barrier to employment for migrants and refugees in Australia is the lack of opportunity and quality work experience. The African-Australian Inclusion Program (AAIP) breaks down this barrier by providing six months of paid work, mentoring and career coaching to qualified African-Australians.

Run in partnership between Jesuit Social Services and National Australia Bank (NAB), AAIP has successfully placed over 300 participants since its inception in 2009. NAB’s AAIP team coordinator BRENDAN MA spoke with AAIP participant Rosi Matlhabaphiri-Quaremba and her People Leader Matt Oster about the importance of the program.

(L-R): Matt Oster (NAB), Rosi Matlhabaphiri-Quaremba (AAIP participant), Brendan Ma (NAB).

Rosi Matlhabaphiri-Quaremba was born in Botswana, the Jewel of Africa. She has travelled the world; living, studying and working in four continents before coming to Australia. She earned an Undergraduate degree in Applied Communications and a Masters degree in International Affairs while in the US.

Rosi has a remarkable breadth of work experience, including with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a lecturer in communications at Limkokwing University, International Marketing and Recruitment Manager, Deputy Sales Manager and Business Development Manager at News Company Botswana.

Despite her impressive resume, Rosi struggled to find secure ongoing employment when she arrived in Australia. After applying for almost 300 roles, she had become attuned to the words “We regret…”.

She was repeatedly told that people with Australian experience were preferred. Dejected, Rosi began scrubbing roles from her resume, and applied for work at factories to get a foot in any industry which would take her.

“Being accustomed to disappointing emails on a daily basis can be emotionally taxing”.

After entering the AAIP program, Rosi regained her “confidence and dignity”. She is now able to provide for her family, has hope, and is optimistic about her future in Australia.

“Since starting AAIP, I feel like my true self once again … I had definitely lost some part of myself”.

During her AAIP placement, Rosi “finally found a place … where [her] place of birth did not define [her] entry and success”. Now at NAB, Rosi works within the Enterprise Events team, creating and delivering world class events. Relishing her new role, Rosi says the best part of her job is “having the opportunity to work and learn from an amazing team” and to see “the fruits of hard work … come to life”.

“I no longer see any boundaries and borders. Now I see hope, opportunities, career advancement and security… I finally felt I can be myself”.

When asked to reflect on the support she is provided from Jesuit Social Services, Rosi says “Words fail me when … expressing my appreciation [for] what Jesuit Social Services has done for me”. Rosi is incredibly grateful to the “team of amazing people routing for [her] success”. She is hopeful that her journey with the organisation does not just end with the six month program but forms a lifelong bond.

While at NAB, Rosi has a comprehensive support network, including a People Leader, Mentor, Coach and Buddy. Rosi is “constantly in awe of the effortless help and support”.

“I feel blessed to have this calibre of people to learn from, and to be part of my journey”.

Matt Oster is the Head of Enterprise Events at NAB. He is also Rosi’s People Leader, regularly catching up and guiding her development. As Rosi’s People Leader, Matt is one of the many arms which support Rosi during her placement at NAB. Matt believes that an organisation of our size has a “responsibility to help nurture people who experience exclusion … to establish themselves within the Australian workforce”.

Rosi is Matt’s second AAIP participant, and Matt relishes in “the satisfaction [which] comes through their transformation, both technical and … in their personal growth”.

Since being involved with the program, he has developed a deeper understanding and appreciation of the challenges which African-Australians face in trying to secure employment within Australia.

“It’s important to remember and easy to forget that not everyone is afforded the equal opportunity to participate in meaningful work”.

When asked about the roles and responsibilities of other companies, Matt says they need to:

“Stop talking and thinking about it, and start your own program – it’s the right thing to do and so incredibly rewarding for both the team member and those involved in the program.”

Rosi echoes these sentiments.

“This program is not just an opportunity for Africans to gain corporate experience in Australia, but is important for companies to be thinking globally in an era where businesses are competing in the global market place. Job candidates with foreign experience can contribute to companies by bringing a new outlook and skill set gained from their foreign experience”.

Through the AAIP, Rosi not only gains valuable local work experience, but is an example to her community. She urges others who are thinking of applying to muster the courage to apply. “Shake off your challenges, for each of them are a stepping stone towards your goals”.

Rejuvenated, inspired and empowered, participants like Rosi have grasped the opportunity with both hands. She views the program “as an opportunity to learn and grow”.

Beyond the participants, the AAIP also enriches the work lives of all the people involved in supporting, administrating and running the program. The passion and enthusiasm the participants bring organically spreads through the company culture. As Rosi aptly encapsulates:

“I feel motivated, ambitious; I have a sense of belonging, and look forward to what the future has in store for me”.

Through their uniquely infectious culture, ambition and drive, AAIP participants such as Rosi continue to deliver tremendous value to all parties involved, and forge a path for others to follow.