Basma Chammo is an Employment Consultant with our disability employment service in Fairfield. Her caring nature and positive mindset are just some of the special gifts she shares with her colleagues and job seekers every day.
This Refugee Week, 19-25 June 2022, Basma shares her story:
You arrived in Australia with your family in 2017. What were your feelings on arriving in a new country?
We were full of hope.
We were accepted for asylum in Australia on our second attempt from Lebanon where we had arrived after leaving Syria due to the war. We came to Australia with hopes of a better life – Syria was not safe for us.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I had dreams of becoming a teacher and building a home for myself. Upon arrival in Australia in July 2017, all I wanted was to be able to achieve that dream. My first step was enrolling in an English course at TAFE – English for Academic Purposes. I saw that educating myself in the language and commencing work was the only way to be able to build a life for myself here and be accepted.
There is no denying the difficulties during the course – the language barrier and the accent made it so hard…but with those surrounding me who had similar accents…it made it easier, and I built confidence in my ability.
Did you fulfil the dream of becoming a teacher?
In Syria, I was already doing my Masters in Teaching – but due to war, I never got a chance to get my documentation of academic records – and so my journey started anew. I enrolled in Western Sydney University and put all my effort and time into completing a Bachelor of Teaching. I graduated in 2 years and 8 months.
During my studies we were receiving Centrelink assistance and all I could think about was graduating and working in the hopes of repaying this country for the good it has done me and my family.
How did you become an Employment Consultant?
The first job I applied for when I finished my studies was with this company – Jobfind in Fairfield. I felt like it was a message to me: working, giving back to Australia and being able to help my community and the people who lived a similar life and speak a similar language.
Kamel, my manager, saw me during my training days and I felt like he believed in me and my abilities. He provided me with the comfort of adapting and involving myself and since then I have been giving my all to this job. It’s very important to me and a passion of mine even though I graduated in a different field.
I found myself in this place and my team.
You speak four languages – has this been beneficial in your work at Jobfind?
Yes, about 70 percent of my clients share the same languages – we speak in Arabic, Assyrian and Chaldean. I speak to the rest of my clients in English.
It always starts the same: they ask me where I originally came from, how many years I’ve been here and our conversation starts a smooth, respectful and helpful relationship between myself and the clients.
What should employment service providers understand about refugees who need support to find work?
Empathy and understanding are very important when trying to engage our job seekers who are refugees.
The individual is not their usual self, because they are unsure in a foreign country, they may not speak the language, may be experiencing culture shock, or their lifestyle is altered by a disability.
Instead of presenting as their usual sociable or pleasant self, they may feel demotivated; their demeanour could be drastically different to how they are when they are in a comfortable state.
Employment service providers can help to put a number of other supports in place to help provide stability and safety for the job seeker so they can be more successful in their search for a job.
Some industries and employers will be a better fit for the refugee, like the local Arabic speaking employer who recruited on of our job seekers who had limited English.
What are three things you wish every Australian understood about refugees?
For one, these are people who went through very deep hardships and have seen the worst, so these people will find everything as a blessing, perhaps what natural citizens may take for granted. Refugees have a history of taking full advantage of the opportunities this great country has to offer…that allows the individual to grow and help the communities they are a part of.
Second, many people who arrive are young, with many years of productivity ahead of them. So many of them pursue higher education, work, or will invest in building a small business. They can grow the economy.
And third, this great nation has a rich history of multiculturism built by refugees and migrants. We are home to the world’s oldest continuing cultures and have welcomed millions of people with hundreds of ancestries. Our social and cultural diversity is one of our strengths and something to be very proud of.
What does this year’s theme for Refugee Week, Healing, mean to you?
It means a great deal to me and to any refugee that has been through this process.
Healing starts as soon as you leave the danger and the horror, to arrive in a land of endless opportunity.
The journey of healing starts from Day one—and you feel yourself getting better from then.
We can see this happen with a lot of our clients—no matter what or how much disadvantages you came with, with enough hard work and determination, you can certainly overcome them and fully integrate and thrive.