Having experienced displacement, uncertainty, and challenges few could comprehend, asylum seekers are uniquely placed to possess the empathy needed to work in the disability support sector.

In a first for Mercy Community, their Disability Supports team and the Romero Centre, which offers a wide range of support services for asylum seekers, have collaborated on an innovative employment project that is already showing results. 

Talent Acquisition Partner Corita Meredith said the initiative had developed from a workshop held in early August, which attracted multiple expressions of interest from people seeking asylum who were keen to work with Mercy Community’s Disability Supports team at Zillmere. 

“We had six people in our first workshop. Five people progressed through to our recruitment process, which resulted in all five being offered permanent part-time positions with us. Not only was each person excited to accept, but they also mentioned how wonderful they found the team in Zillmere,” she said.

Everyone involved had worked hard to ensure the candidate interview experience was excellent, with applicants warmly welcomed to feel part of the team.

“It means so much to know that not only do they have employment, but it is within a team of people that really care – and that showed through everyone’s actions. This is just the tip of the iceberg with what can be achieved by working together like this,” Ms Meredith said.

“I personally welcomed the idea with open arms not just because I had some prior experience working as a social worker but also because I was passionate about creating an impact in the lives of participants in the sector.” Joseph Balikuddembe, one of our successful candidates, commented, “I believe more asylum seekers can contribute positively along these lines if they are given an opportunity – by finding work in the disability support sector, we are able to be financially independent, make our tax obligations and ultimately be good citizens in this country.”

Romero Centre Manager Mengistu Hailu said it was essential to create strong ties through inclusive practices with this partnership fostering mutual understanding within multiple Mercy Community service streams. 

“Refugees and asylum seekers come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. They are often equipped with a wealth of knowledge about their home cultures, traditions, and customs. This cultural competency is a valuable asset in disability work and fosters a more holistic and culturally sensitive approach to caregiving,” he said. 

He said it would also help to minimise the risk of homelessness, one of the most significant risk factors for so many vulnerable people in the community, especially those seeking asylum.

 “This experience is going to strengthen Romero’s resources to help people seeking asylum find paid employment, so they can consistently put meals on the table, pay their rent, and contribute to their future, the well-being of their families and the wider community.”

Ms Meredith and the team at Romero have already undertaken the second workshop with similar success. They are planning how this initiative might work across Mercy Community in other services. “We are excited to build on the success of these workshops and find even more ways we can work

Related Story