Long-time Brotherhood of St Laurence volunteer, Jenny Norvick understands the challenges faced by newly arrived refugees and migrants in finding employment. During her own career with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Jenny learned a lot about migrant and refugee settlement and the barriers that hinder those from different cultural backgrounds and with limited English from participating in working life.
"During my time with the Department, I became very aware of the difficulties new arrivals face in gaining employment. Not only are employers reluctant to employ people whose experience they aren’t familiar with, it can be difficult for people from different cultural backgrounds to understand how the local labour market works and navigate their way through it."
"Even highly skilled refugees such as teachers, nurses and engineers don’t know how to frame the kind of resume or cover letter expected by local employers. And it just doesn't come naturally to many cultures to be able to sell yourself. It is regarded as boasting”, Jenny explains.
Soon after taking early retirement from her government job, Jenny applied her skills, knowledge and passion for social justice at the Brotherhood's Ecumenical Migration Centre (EMC) where one or two days a week she helps refugees, asylum seekers and some migrants to write resumes and look for jobs. She volunteers as part of the Centre's 'Brain Bank' program which matches skilled volunteers with newly arrived refugees and migrants seeking mentoring and/or assistance to access the labour market.
She also runs mini training sessions and mentors a couple of refugee women’s groups to support other programs at EMC. Jenny provides support, guidance and encouragement and has built many long-term relationships that have helped community members overcome cultural barriers, isolation, limited skills, and a lack of confidence.
Her drive and commitment have grown and flourished.
"When I was working for the Federal Government I had to operate within policy frameworks, which can be limiting and inflexible at times. I liked working with refugee and migrant groups and I always knew when I retired that I wanted to volunteer in this area, to provide hands-on support to individuals and groups who needed it.
"I wanted to get involved in the community and do something worthwhile. I approached EMC and asked if I could volunteer with a model employment program it was running at the time so that I could provide assistance in an area where I thought it was badly needed. And I have been providing job search assistance at EMC ever since.
“I find it incredibly satisfying when someone gets a job, or is set on the path to getting a job because I know they are on the way to becoming part of our community.”
Jenny has helped some hundreds of refugees and migrants over the past eight years. She continues to be a critical member of the Brotherhood team and active advocate for all people to enjoy participation, and access, to community and working life.
Are you interested in volunteering with us? View our current volunteer opportunities, or contact our Volunteer Services Team on (03) 9483 1390.