After arriving in Australia in 2006, Rebecca had difficulty finding childcare work. Despite already having the right experience and skills, she found that cultural differences meant new workplaces weren’t easy to understand.
‘I didn’t have anyone who could speak for me’, Rebecca says. ‘No one said, “Rebecca … I will be a referee for you”.’
Rebecca left war-torn Liberia in 1990 and moved through several African countries before teaching in United Nations refugee camps in Guinea. In Australia, searching for a job proved hard. ‘Some offices, if you have your papers and they don’t know you, they won’t call you. They need someone to recommend you. So this was my hardest problem.’
Rebecca heard about someone who had got a job at the Brotherhood's Ecumenical Migration Centre (EMC), so she inquired about work. Instead, she was offered training through the Given the Chance program.
Unemployment is common among refugees, but Given the Chance helps them find jobs and build better lives in their new land. It links refugees with mentors who help them prepare for employment – Rebecca still meets with hers. It also offers work experience, job search training and ongoing support for people who often have no family or other network in Australia. ‘EMC make you a family’, says Rebecca.
‘When we did the training they taught us how to dress and how to talk, so when I got an interview I came to the EMC and they told me what to say and what to wear.’
Rebecca now has two jobs, with a childcare agency and with the Brotherhood’s Connie Benn Centre, which works with parents to help their preschool children fulfil their potential. Like Rebecca, most of the families came to Australia as refugees.
She appreciates how the program helped her understand what a workplace should be like. ‘Given the Chance gave me the confidence that if I don’t like something I need to speak up. Before Given the Chance I was afraid.’