Congolese Refugees Getting Their First Jobs
The farming industry’s concern on workforce shortage has been resolved in the Northern Territory’s mango orchards.
It presents a win-win situation as this opportunity has given some Congolese refugees their first job opportunity in the country.
Bachunge Furaha fled civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo five years ago and, since then, struggled to find a job in Australia, until now.
Yet, this season, a door opened for her as she worked in Nutrano Produce’s mango packing shed in Katherine, a Northern Territory town 300 kilometres south of Darwin.
With excitement, Ms Fuhara said “It is my first job in five years, and when I tried to apply, many people asked me to prove my experience, but I didn’t have any experience. Now, I have a job and I am very happy and grateful.”
She is not the only one. Ms Furaha and many others are part of a collaborative program to get refugees working on-farm. It was started this year by recruitment agency The Job Shop, the Darwin-based Melaleuca Refugee Centre, and the NT Farmers Association.
According to Carol Zunker, The Job Shop operation manager, there were 35 participants this year, most of whom were Congolese. “They’re happy people, they can come into the shed and be happy, and they can be in the field and they’re singing and just happy to be given a chance,” she said.
She emphasized that they are hardworking and determined to work, one thing she admires from them.
More so, Nutrano’s packing shed manager Kehran Collingwood said the company would happily employ refugee job seekers again. She saw the excitement as they come, observing how they are particular in getting things rights and intricate with their packing, asserting that she is happy with the outcome of the recruitment so far.
Ms Zunker attributed the seasonal work program’s initial success to perseverance and working closely with farmers and participants. “Because of the lack of backpackers and seasonal workers in the country, we really pushed everything to get some of our new Australians into farm work,” Ms Zunker said.
Some refugees, though, were discouraged by others. For instance, Congolese woman Deborah Hussein revealed that when she first heard about the job opportunity to work during the upcoming mango season, some of her friends were negative about it.
“Some friends told us, ‘You can’t do this, picking and packing mango is a very hard job and maybe only men can do it’. But we could do it. If men can do it, women can do it too. I am a strong mummy.” Ms Hussein said.
Now, she is more determined to return to the Melaleuca Refugee Centre to encourage others to take up seasonal harvesting work in the future.
Also, since arriving in Australia 18 months ago, working in the packing shed this season has also been Bunyemu Mangala’s first job. She said she would use part of her wage to help family still living in the DRC.
Ms Zunker assured that the partnership with Melaleuca Refugee Centre would continue next mango season, as more and more refugees enjoy this incredible provision.