By Santo Tom, reporter at Sudanese Australian Voices (SAV)
With no hope of jobs, Sudanese and South Sudanese Australian graduates say they are frightened and confused about their employment prospects in Australia because of discrimination in employment sector.
Many say this situation constrains their alternatives by pushing them to take laboring jobs or even forces them to go back to where they came from.
A very experienced South Sudanese teacher and Church minister, Francis Alexander, expressed his frustration, saying, “always they block us out by saying we do not have experience and skills.
“I spent 8 years as a primary school teacher in Sudan and Egypt. Also I was a Church minister for 10 years. So, what experience and skills are they talking about?” asked Mr Alexander.
“Of course I didn’t think my qualification from Sudan will get me a job in Australia straightaway, that is why I did 4 years study in Avondale College for High Education (in NSW), however, the result is still the same,” he added.
Mr Alexander described his experience of discrimination against Sudanese and South Sudanese graduates. He said, “if you get away with your name because you have an European name, they can still “get” you through your accent, birthplace, language spoken at home and your color. I think the job application process was designed to put people into categories and discriminates against them.”
With frustration, anger and a breaking heart he said, “they do not want us to go to study, they want us to do the labor work, I have to go back to where I came from. Employment is not any more about qualifications or knowledge, instead it is about favoritism and who backs you up.”
A report from the Journal of Refugee, written by Val Colic and Farida Tilbury, based on a survey of three refugee groups (ex-Yugoslavs, Black Africans and people from Middle East), indicates that the “recent humanitarian arrivals are concentrated in labor market niches such as cleaning services, care of the aged, meat processing, taxi driving, security and building”.
The study pointed out some issues related to these findings, such as non-recognition of qualifications, discrimination on the basis of race and cultural differences, and the lack of mainstream social networks that can assist in the job search.
Ms Smyrek, who runs the program of African-Australian approved paid workplace experience at Australian National Bank (NAB), advises Sudanese and South Sudanese graduates to benefit from her program. “We are certainly looking for potential organizational work experience for qualified African-Australian.”
Project manager Monica Smyrek, from the Jesuit Social Services (African Australian Inclusion Program), shared some of Mr. Alexander fears. She said a jobs search review found “this is not an individual or some communities’ problem, it is everyone’s problem”.
She urged the Sudanese and South Sudanese graduates to understand the jobs search process, appealing to them to “find out your gaps, spend time in updating your CV and get yourself a good mentor who can give you support and a direction.
“Never give up hope. There are always opportunities, it just needs patience”, she added. “A professional with qualifications and skills needs 8 months to get a job in Australia. It is a competition, where the best of the best gets the job.”
She understood the disappointment of new graduates, with “high expectations”, advising the new Sudanese and South Sudanese graduates to undertake what she called an “entry level role” that can help them build experience, skills and reputation.
She also mentioned that “transferable skills” sometimes are not relevant to the jobs the Sudanese and South Sudanese graduates have had applied for. She went on, “it is hard to keep motivated, and it is hard to realise to take some chances – always ‘be ready’”.
Motivation and encouragement alone will not ease the fears and frustration of the Sudanese and South Sudanese graduates, unless things change in regard to employment.
And pointing fingers of blame and anger without patience and effort will not help the situation. But the fact is there is an issue for graduates with high expectations of getting jobs after a long path of effort and determination.
Hopefully Mr Alexander, and many others like him, will soon get a job that can end the suffering of many Sudanese and South Sudanese graduates as the community overcomes this problem of discrimination.