Giving migrant, refugee and asylum seeker ‘Sisters’ the tools they need to find employment and economic empowerment.

Grant Type
Community
Focus
Economic Empowerment
Date
2022
Partner

Luz Restrepo moved to Australia seeking political asylum in 2010. A medical doctor and communications expert in her home country, limited English and social isolation left her feeling disempowered in this new landscape.

As she met other female migrants with similar experiences, she saw that to support each other is also to strengthen each other. So, in May 2013 she gathered a committee of volunteers with legal, fundraising, marketing and administrative support skills, and SisterWorks was born.

SisterWorks believes that work empowers women. Over the past 11 years the organisation has helped more than 2,500 migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women from 105 countries build a better life in Australia through skills training and work opportunities.

“Some migrant and refugee women have regrettably fallen through the cracks of the system due to barriers to employment in Australia,” says Iffrin Fittock, CEO of SisterWorks.

“We are committed to being there for these women; to assist them, offer equitable opportunities and foster an environment of inclusivity.”

SisterWorks’ core Employment Pathways Program gives migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women - affectionally called ‘Sisters’ - industry specific training in areas including hospitality, warehousing and customer service; one-on-one employment support; worksite tours; and linkages to employers and employment pathways.

Sisters graduate from the Program with industry specific training, job ready knowledge - work rights, job-specific English, relevant specific training - and job-ready skills, such as resume writing and interview skills.

Since 2022, more than 607 Sisters have graduated from the Program and SisterWorks has supported 328 Sisters to gain economic empowerment either through employment or supporting their entrepreneurial ventures.

“The Program empowers women with the skills and confidence needed to overcome barriers and secure meaningful employment, ultimately transforming their lives and making a positive impact on the wider community,” Iffrin says.

To deepen the impact of the Program, SisterWorks commissioned research in 2021 to comprehensively map barriers to employment and positive settlement experiences in Australia. It found that while internal barriers do exist, such as low motivation and lack of confidence, the biggest barriers are external, including discrimination, previous training not being recognised and cultural barriers.

This experience is echoed by Abeda, who moved to Australia in 2014 as an asylum seeker with her husband and three children and found a dearth of employment opportunities before entering the SisterWorks Employment Pathways Program.

“After I finished the Warehousing program I found a job at L’Oréal which is very good,” Abeda says.

“I am very happy; the work is very flexible and I have my own money. I am proud of myself because it’s my first time that I am working. Now we are planning to buy a house.”

The Bennelong Foundation funded the SisterWork’s Employment Program during 2023 and 2024.

Impactful results

Making positive change

SisterWorks has empowered migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women to participate in employment opportunities.

Outcome

Better access to the training and skills migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women need to find a job, earn an income and become self-supporting.

Outcome

Better access to education that opens pathways to future career opportunities.

I am very happy; the work is very flexible and I have my own money. I am proud of myself because it’s my first time that I am working.”

Adeba

Employment Pathways Program ‘sister’

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