Serving up new opportunities

Navigating the job market can be a murky business. This is particularly true if your qualifications are not recognised in your new homeland, English is your second language, and you don’t hold a NSW driver’s licence. However, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning’s new cleaning service, in partnership with its Refugee Hub, aims to change that.

CatholicCare’s Director, Gary Christensen, said that in the past month the organisation had more than 14 people from asylum seeker backgrounds ask for help to find a job.

“They have a strong desire to become meaningful contributors to their new community,” Mr Christensen said. “A lot of the refugees we support obtained qualifications such as teaching or engineering in their homeland - however they’re struggling to find employment in Australia as their credentials aren’t recognised here. Recognising this, many are happy to work in service roles that don’t necessarily require a qualification but as they have no experience, they’re often not given a look-in by potential employers.”

To help overcome some of these challenges CatholicCare’s Senior Management Team established the CatholicCare Cleaning Service.

The commercial cleaning service is the not-for-profit’s first social enterprise venture and aims to create an avenue for vulnerable people, including refugees and asylum seekers, to obtain meaningful employment and training while earning an income in line with the relevant award.

Husband and wife Jean and Mary, born in Congo, were provided with support from the Refugee Hub to apply for a position with CatholicCare Cleaning Service. They were successful in their application and each work approximately 16 hours every week at various locations across Newcastle, as well as working towards gaining their Certificate III in Cleaning Operations.

Jean, who worked as a mechanic in Congo, is grateful to be able to give back to his family’s adopted community.

“We have felt so supported by the Newcastle community since we arrived three years ago, and this is an important step in being able give back,” he said.

Mary, who was the primary carer for the couples eight daughters, said that the money they earn goes towards helping them to save for a house and, to help their family still living in their war-torn homeland.  

“One of our daughters, my mother and brother are still in Congo and it’s important to us that we do what we can from here to support them,” she said.

Mr Christensen said that seven businesses have signed up to CatholicCare’s Cleaning Service and encourages other interested businesses to get in touch.

“Our clients have been really happy with the cleaning service and have been encouraged to know that all profits from the business go directly towards supporting CatholicCare’s Refugee Hub and Food Programs.”

This ethos of helping vulnerable people in our community to get a leg-up resonated with Rachel Jones, principal of St Dominic’s Centre in Mayfield. In desperate need of a new cleaning provider, the launch of CatholicCare Cleaning Service could not have come at a better time.

“I am all about giving opportunities to people who may not have prospects elsewhere,” Ms Jones said.

“The quality of service is impeccable! Considering the number of windows we have, and the number of kids we support who are very tactile, by the end of the day they can look like they haven’t been washed in years. But after the team works their magic, they look brand new again.”

While the commercial cleaning service has only been operating for five months on the back of its immediate success Mr Christensen said CatholicCare plans to launch several other social enterprise ventures such as a café and food trailers.

“Our social enterprise employees have a lot to offer society and ultimately, when they’re ready, we want to them to go on to gain meaningful employment in the open market or establish their own small business; we’re just a stepping stone on their journey,” Mr Christensen said.  

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