TRIEC recently made a trip to Western Australia, to learn from, and share knowledge with, The Kaleidoscope initiative. Kaleidoscope was started by the City of Stirling, to leverage Stirling’s diverse population and build a stronger economy and community. Sarah Janali, Team Leader Cultural Diversity & Community, Community Services Administration, City of Stirling, tells us why she wanted to start this project and how it will benefit the Stirling community.
Q. Why did you want to start this project in the City of Stirling?
Sarah: The City of Stirling is one of the most diverse local government areas in Western Australia. We believe that diversity is a really positive thing for communities and economies. However, we are also aware of the barriers that newcomer professionals face when looking for employment commensurate with their skills and experience such as:
- lack of Australian work experience
- recognition of overseas qualifications
- lack of professional and community networks
- knowledge of Australian workplace culture and expectations
- racism and discrimination in hiring practices
These barriers can lead to newcomers being underemployed or unemployed. This has an impact as society loses out when newcomers are not able to achieve their potential here. In suburbs within the City of Stirling such as Mirrabooka/Balga which have the highest proportion of overseas-born individuals, unemployment rates are as high as 25%.
Q. Why did you approach TRIEC to help you set up the project?
Sarah: In 2015, I did a Churchill Fellowship which provided me with an opportunity to visit other communities with large immigrant populations to identify innovative models that are helping them participate and fulfil their potential in their new countries. Whilst in Toronto, I met with Margaret Eaton and learnt about the work that TRIEC is doing in helping newcomers reconnect with their careers in Canada. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we thought it would be great if the evidence-based models that TRIEC has developed could be adapted and delivered in the Australian context.
Q. What are some of the benefits that immigrant professionals bring to Australia’s labour market?
Sarah: Immigrant professionals bring a range of benefits to Australia’s labour market including:
- Meeting skills shortages in particular professions
- Addressing population decline in regional areas
- Assisting Australian businesses to develop and grow global trade links and serve increasingly diverse domestic markets
In the next 35 years, immigrants will add an estimated $1.6 trillion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product.
Q. What, in your opinion, are some of the differences between Canada and Australia in terms of immigrant employment?
Sarah: Australia and Canada have quite similar approaches to immigration. In fact, we are global competitors for international talent. However, the discussions regarding diversity and inclusion in the workforce in the Australian context have tended to focus on Indigenous employment, gender equality and disability. In recent years there has also been a focus on addressing age-based discrimination in employment. What we are trying to achieve with the Kaleidoscope Initiative, in putting the issue of cultural diversity on the table, is quite new in the Australian context.
Q. How do you plan to adapt what you have learned from TRIEC in the Stirling community?
Sarah: We have developed a large stakeholder partner network that includes representatives from other government agencies, employment services, industry bodies, settlement agencies and professional networks. We have been working with this group to obtain feedback on the context here and getting them involved in developing our approach and adapting the TRIEC program models to this context.
Q. How do you see your organization helping newcomer professionals in the City of Stirling?
Sarah: We are working towards the following outcomes:
- An inclusive employer culture which enables businesses and organisations to benefit from the skills, knowledge and experience of a culturally diverse workforce
- Strong, informed and connected community associations and professional networks that actively support newcomers to achieve their career goals
- Newcomers building an understanding of Australian workplace culture and develop occupationally-specific professional networks that assist them to achieve their career goals
- Stakeholder partners working collaboratively to develop solutions that promote newcomer workforce participation