Retail giant impressed by the drive of asylum seeker recruits

07 September 2016

The drive to succeed stands out among many of the recruits Woolworths has hired via a program that helps people seeking asylum in Australia get a foothold in the workforce.

Taj is one of those recruits. He joined the Brotherhood of St Laurence Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers program earlier this year. He was just 16 when he came to Australia, fleeing persecution as a minority Hazara in Afghanistan.

In February, the Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers program set up a two week work placement for Taj at Woolworths Victoria Harbour, in Melbourne’s Docklands. Store Manager David Brown was impressed, and offered him a job before the placement ended.

‘After his third shift, one of the senior produce guys said to me, you give me a couple of him and I won’t need anyone else in the department. He picks things up. You just have to explain something once, he checks whether he’s done it right and he asks for something else to do,’ David says. ‘He goes the extra mile with customers, and with everything he does, and he’s always cheerful.’

Taj works part-time doing stock control in the produce section on weekends and at night, while doing a full-time traineeship and Certificate III in Business Administration. David is very supportive of his studies, seeing Taj’s drive to succeed as the fuel for his strong work ethic.

‘He wants to achieve something in life. He’s always going to have a job here, so he’s always going to be able to drop back here once he’s finished his study.’  David believes Taj has the potential to move into store management and Taj is also working towards that. 

More than 300 people have got work through the Brotherhood of St Laurence program since it began three years ago. Woolworths has taken on 64 for work experience, and employed 19.

The program has captured the attention of the National Retail Association, which recently featured this story on its website.

Read: Woolworths gives asylum seeker recruits powerful leg up into the retail industry.

Brotherhood Employer Engagement Manager Brian Finnigan says program participants are on bridging visas with work rights, and 30 per cent are tertiary qualified. He says employers such as Woolworths provide very positive feedback about those recruited through the program. 

‘The motivation of our clients is off the scale. They really want to work. We do our homework on their broad career interests and skill sets so there is a good fit between the client and the employer,’ he says. 

Taj says he appreciates the opportunity the program has provided.

‘Given the Chance has been a great stepping stone for my career in Australia. It has given me the confidence and experience to get a job. It is amazing.’

Employers interested in learning more about the program can call Brian Finnigan on 0424 751 920 or email bfinnigan(at) 

To learn more visit our Given the Chance For Asylum Seekers page.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) acknowledges and understands its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and recognises that all children and young people have the right to be treated with respect and care, and to be safe from all forms of abuse. BSL has a zero tolerance towards child abuse.
Read the official statement signed by the Executive Director.

The Brotherhood recognises the harm that family violence causes and that freedom from violence is a basic human right.
We will support our staff, volunteers, clients and the community if they experience violence.

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The Brotherhood of St Laurence acknowledges and recognises the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we live and work, and we pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.

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