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Event planning company sparks job hopes for young refugees


Seven former refugees living in Adelaide have forged new careers as event planners after undertaking an Australian-first training course aimed at curbing the high rate of refugee youth unemployment.

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The group, aged between 18 and 35 years, last week became the first graduates of the accredited training program run by Multicultural Youth SA (MYSA) in collaboration with South Australian consultancy firm Community Corporate.

The training program is the first refugee-specific pilot of the Federal Government’s Launch to Work program, which provides grant funding to businesses that provide training, work experience and mentoring to support job seekers.

MYSA has now employed the trainees at its for-profit event planning company, Miss Mysa Events.

“South Australia has the highest refugee youth unemployment rate in the country after Tasmania so we had to do something,” MYSA CEO Tamara Stewart-Jones said.

“We were looking at the sustainability of our organisation and I think it’s either you diversify or die in the not-for-profit space so we decided to diversify.”

Stewart-Jones said all profits from Miss Mysa Events were used to support MYSA’s refugee programs.

She said the event planning industry was well-suited to people who enjoyed expressing themselves creatively.

“When the board was looking at social enterprises they were looking at lawn mowing businesses or cleaning businesses and I was thinking about the young people that were going to be getting into this and I’m like, ‘that’s not really a career, that’s more about getting a job’,” she said.

“I thought about the skill set of our client group and where their passion lies and certainly with their limited English it’s around creativity (and) expression, so I suggested an event planning company.

“It’s a niche where we’d be really strong in corporate responsibility and we’d be ticking that box for people.”

The training program was organised by Community Corporate and facilitated by Quality Training and Hospitality College in Wayville. The graduates are now employed on six-month part-time contracts.

Miss Mysa Events has already planned functions for companies including Radio Rentals, Adelaide Casino, Adelaide Oval and Adelaide Fringe. It now plans to grow its business when it inducts its second round of trainees later this year.

“At the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had to make the jump from social worker CEO at MYSA to for-profit business manager bringing on a group of young people that we’d previously case managed and supported,” Stewart-Jones said.

“These are really difficult-to-place people sometimes and they’ve been rejected repeatedly from other jobs and all they really needed was a little bit more mentoring.

“I took a risk and it completely paid off and now they’re part of our family.”

Employee Amna Hussein, who moved from her home country Eritrea in East Africa to Australia in 2016, said she found it harder than expected to find a job in Adelaide.

“I applied for thousands of jobs… but I wasn’t getting the response,” she said.

“Some people they say because my headscarf, some people they say because I have broken English, some people say because I’m not Australian. I find these all excuses.”

Hussein said the training program taught her skills in hospitality and professional communication to prepare her for the workforce.

“I can now independently support myself, start a new life and a new career in Australia,” she said.

Fellow employee Teachud Tear, who arrived in Australia from South Sudan in 2003, said he initially found it easy to find work in Australia until the media’s coverage of alleged African gang violence in Melbourne hindered his chances of further employment.

“Most employers were rejecting you on the assumption that you’re going to be a troublemaker or something else,” he said.

“People would get you to the interview but by the time you got to the interview people were just saying the position had been filled or they weren’t interested any more.

“It made me feel frustrated. I lost my self-esteem a bit because I knew it was going to be the same story every job I applied for.”

Tear said he was interested in continuing to pursue a career in event planning.

“The more I do it, it’s becoming more enjoyable,” he said.

“I learnt a lot – self-confidence is one of the first ones and also learning to work as part of a team.”

Community Corporate founder Carmen Garcia said the biggest challenge from running the training program was convincing the young trainees that there was a legitimate job at the end of the course.

“Unfortunately at the moment people just do training for training’s sake and that really loses the buy-in from young people and particularly refugees to give it 100 per cent, because they’re not convinced that there’s a real job at the end of it,” she said.

“Who would know that this group of young people could run such successful events if we didn’t give them the opportunity and recognise that diversity does work.”

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