Bright ideas for a brighter future


5 projects that are empowering refugees in Australia

via Welcome to Australia


You land in a new country full of dreams for the future, yet have one important task: you need to get a job. But you’ve missed most of your senior schooling, and when others were busy building their CVs, you were stuck in a time warp… in a refugee camp.

The number of people forced to flee their homes has grown in recent years, surpassing 50 million worldwide. And half of the world’s refugees are children. Refugee camps are temporary solutions, lacking substantial infrastructure, yet people languish in them – sometimes for generations.

So when people finally settle in Australia a lot of life has passed them by. There often isn’t a lot of support for these new residents, that’s why innovative programs like Bright Ideas by the Refugee Council of Australia are so important.

From hospitality training to art classes, these programs are empowering refugees and new migrants. They’re also helping to dismantle the barriers to assimilation in our society.

Here are some of their inspiring and welcoming programs.

1. First Home Project

Perth-based pastor and activist Jarrod McKenna and his wife Teresa began the First Home Project in 2012. The project is a compassionate alternative to detention and offers a supportive, welcoming community. Asylum seekers and refugees live in the communal, medium-term and affordable accommodation where they get a ‘hand up’ to start their lives in Australia. The rental history helps them move on to more permanent rental agreements and the supportive community helps them to become more settled and established in Australia.

2. Refugee Art Project

There is some incredible talent locked away behind the razor wire of Australia’s detention centres. The Refugee Art Project – based out of Villawood Detention Centre in Western Sydney – was created by a passionate group of academics and artists. Since 2010 more than 500 artworks have been showcased from refugees and asylum seekers, giving refugees a voice to the Australian public through their art and self-expression.

3. Ignite Small Business Start-Up

Many refugees and new migrants have incredible entrepreneurial skills, yet struggle to overcome the barriers to participating in the Australian business environment. Ignite supports entrepreneurs who want to use their skills through programs that help establish a small business or expand on an existing one, so they can support their families and earn a livelihood.

4. The International Shift

The International Shift offers free hospitality training to participants so they can secure jobs in the hospitality industry. Run at Parliament on King café in Erskineville NSW, the participants are from diverse backgrounds and cultures, bringing their own unique skills and traditions to create a fun and vibrant café experience.

5. Students Against Racism – ‘Living in Between’

‘Living in Between’ is a dramatic school presentation from students who came to Australia as refugees and migrants. Drawing on their personal experience to share why they left their homelands, the students share the journey that brought them to Australia and what their lives are like now. The presentations explore issues around the causes and consequences of racism and how other students can combat it to welcome other new migrants.




Bethany Noble


Bethany is a writer and entrepreneur based in Sydney.


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