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SEE Program opens doors to new job and life for Isam

By Rebecca Foreman | August 3, 2023

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Meet Isam Yaqoob Dawood Al Nisan*, a resilient 55-year-old man who calls Fairfield, in South West Sydney, home. Isam’s journey to Australia has been one filled with challenges and triumphs, but today, thanks to the help of Navitas Skilled Futures, he has a job and a good life as a proud Australian citizen.

Isam’s story began in the bustling city of Mosul, North Iraq, where he once had a thriving life. However, in 2014, the arrival of ISIS shook his world, forcing him and his family to flee to Dukok, Kurdistan, in search of safety. They left behind everything they owned, including a car, house, and a small hardware shop. ISIS had taken everything from his village, simply because they were a Christian community, and he had to leave it all behind to protect his loved ones.

“My wife was pregnant with our child at the time ISIS invaded,” Isam explains. “It was very hard time, everyone lost everything in my village.”

Isam’s wife and extended family decided to try to journey to Australia, with perseverance and hope. After spending two years waiting in Jordan, Isam and his family were granted refugee status in Australia in 2018. When they arrived in Sydney, they were welcomed by the Australian government, who provided temporary housing. But Isam’s brother-in-law, an Australian citizen already working in a restaurant, stepped up to support them further and was able to help them secure a unit to live in.

For Isam, learning English was the key to unlocking new opportunities in Australia. In 2018, he joined the Navitas Skilled Futures Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program, which prepared him to communicate effectively in English. The AMEP equipped him with essential English language skills that allowed him to eventually progress to study a further SEE course relating to his background in hospitality.

After we arrived, I started learning English after only 3 months. I had an interview with Navitas and then went to learn English. The course was just like going to school, I kept doing it, until I could speak English well. Navitas was very good for me.”

Although Isam had a background in hospitality, he realised that English fluency and local work experience and knowledge was crucial to succeed in the Australian job market. After completing the SEE program in hospitality, he further honed his skills where he learned about coffee machines, health and safety issues, and customer service in restaurants.

Like many jobseekers, Isam suffered knockbacks, seeing jobs go to younger workers or people without children who were able to work late nights. But Isam’s dedication paid off when he landed a job that fit in with his family commitments at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Fairfield. He now works at Royal Restaurant, where he brings his expertise and a love for hospitality.

Alongside completing the SEE course in hospitality, being better integrated in the local community and calling on connections also helped Isam.

“You cannot get job easily at my age,” he says. “You have to have someone to help you here. You have to have a friend that will help you. Believe me, if you have experience, skills and you know someone that says you are good man, then you get the job.”

Royal Restaurant Fairfield photo courtesy of Facebook

At Navitas Skilled Futures Fairfield, Isam also participated in English for Citizenship classes, which helped him prepare for the citizenship test. Now an Australian citizen with a bright future ahead, Isam dreams of long-term employment and further success and he knows that continuing to practise and refine his English language abilities is essential, and he uses a language app on his phone to keep himself sharp.

“My advice to other people learning English is to also watch TV with subtitles on. I learned many English words this way when I studied for my Australian citizen test,” Isam explains.

“Australia is very good country, there is opportunity here. If you are younger then you have even more opportunity. Australia takes care of everyone, safety and freedom for everyone – for your family also.

“But you must work, and if you learn English, you can succeed in Australia. Maybe after time, you can get a car, house, everything. This is my advice.”

Isam’s remarkable story serves as a testament to the spirit of resilience. With dreams of working in his favourite store, Bunnings, Isam is determined to make his way in Australia.

“Australia is open for all the people. There is a chance for everyone. All people are equal here,” he says.

The Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program is funded by the Australian Government. The program, which gives you the skills and support you need to prepare for work or further study, is now available for direct enrolments. Some eligibility criteria apply. Please contact us to see how we can help you get your next job:

*Isam was happy to be photographed but did not want to show his face.

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