Case Studies

Lwazi’s story

The story of Lwazi* demonstrates strength, determination, ultimate patience and substantiated reasons why the right to work is a fundamental human right. Lwazi has resided in Australia for the past two and half years being denied right to work.

Lwazi arrived in Australia early 2006. Lwazi was able to escape the political unrest, risk of persecution and danger that plagued his home country with the grant of a Student Visa in Australia.  Lwazi’s Student Visa enabled him to access University education in Australia, during which time he supported himself through employment. Lwazi was unable to complete his Bachelor of Commerce degree due to the right to work and study being revoked.

Up until the expiration of his student visa Lwazi demonstrated himself to be a continually active contributor to the Australian economy, becoming a highly valued employee and positive community member.  Lwazi continues to be connected within the Australian community and has strong aspirations to re-commence contributing to the Australian economy.

My aspirations for the future, include volunteer work and contributing to the community; being a positive role model for others; working in the mining industry as a consultant. I have skills which will be transferable and will help achieve these aspirations

Since arriving in Australia Lwazi has been involved within a global project looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions and has participated in the Deakin University undergraduate leadership and mentorship program. Lwazi participated within Australia Day ceremonies supported by profound friendship supports he has established in Australia.

Lwazi’s Student Visa expired August 30, 2010. Since Lwazi’s arrival in Australia, the dangerous political situation within Lwazi’s country of origin had deteriorated, leading to the persecution of his family members and murder of one family member. Lwazi became aware that he could not return to his country of origin due to fear of persecution. Lwazi then became aware that he could apply for protection from the Australian Government and subsequently applied for a Protection Visa in November 2010. Lwazi is still awaiting a final outcome from the appeal process.

Due to the 2 month time frame between the expiration of Lwazi’s Student Visa and application date for Lwazi’s Protection Visa, Lwazi was granted a Bridging Visa, denying him work and study rights.  Lwazi has managed to survive for the past two and a half years without the fundamental right to work, by the support of community services organisations and friendship connections. Lwazi’s application to Immigration for Work Rights was refused early 2012.

Aside from the significant challenge of survival, the denial of the right to work has a negative impact on individuals’ mental health and ability to establish independence and connectedness within the Australian community.  As a consequence this can lead to a complex and difficult integration process into Australian society if or when the final refugee determination outcome results in the grant of a permanent visa to live in Australia.

The person’s name has been changed to protect his identity.

The importance of the right to work.

Luz’s story

Luz Estela Restrepo moved from Colombia where she worked as a medical doctor and communication advisor to multinational companies. Upon arriving in Australia as a non-English speaking migrant, her inability to communicate scoured her sense of self-worth. Meeting other migrant women in the community, Luz found that “without language” the women had low self-esteem, and worryingly Luz observed that many female asylum seekers had fallen victim to domestic violence as a result. Luz felt that the way to improve the women’s self esteem was to find a way to push them into an English working environment and in 2011, developed her own social enterprise called Handmade by Multicultural Women. She gathered 21 migrant women into an entrepreneurial group that sells handicrafts at local markets. These women support each other by speaking English whilst working, and are empowered as they leave home for their own activities and gain a sense of economic and social independence. Right now, Luz is looking for grants that will enable her to provide retail training for the women, and in the long-term would like to organize different social enterprises to help asylum seeker women contribute to the Australian community.

Tannya’s story

Upon fleeing Columbia, Tannya left behind 35 years of working as a Criminal and Corporate Lawyer. By seeking asylum, she had to start again as her professional skills were not recognized in Australia.

When I arrived in Australia, my first thought was that I needed tools to project for my future. To me, the principle of a good person is education and a profession. I wanted to become a nurse, but as I was on a bridging visa, I couldn’t study a Bachelor Degree. After being told I could complete a Certificate III in Aged Care, there was a light in my life. All my problems and depression decreased as my mind opened with study – it saved my life.

I want to show the Australian Government that to keep people going in life, they don’t need to be given a fish, they need to be taught how to fish. My recommendation for the Government is that the principle that makes a good person is their culture and education – and to contribute to make Australia a great country, people need access to education and a profession.

Tannya is currently thriving in her position at MECWA centre and now that she is a Permanent Resident plans to study a Nursing Degree.

Debbie’s story

The story of Debbie* illustrates how transformative work can be for individuals. Upon arriving from Malaysia, Debbie was anxious and negative about her future prospects, she was very despondent and had no self-confidence. After completing her Health Services Assistant Certificate through NMIT and after doing her placement in a local hospital, Debbie was offered a position by her employer. With the offer of work, Debbie’s life turned around:

Before I thought I had limited work options, that there was nothing I could do. Now I know I can do Health Services Assistance. It has been great for my self-esteem and my life has changed as a result.

For the first time Debbie feels valued and recognized as somebody who has respected skills. Her physical and mental health has improved as having a remunerated job increases her social life and she is no longer sitting at home with nothing to do, depressed and worried about her future.

* Debbie’s name has been changed.

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